Sunday, March 20, 2011

Bees and Springtails

During the past few days, the temperatures have reached into the 50s and even (for one day) into the 60s. With the rising temperatures, many of the early spring flowers are blooming: snowdrops, winter aconite, and crocuses. These flowers need pollinators, and over the past few days, I have seen the first bees of the year. This time of year, bees are not abundant like they are later in the year, but occasionally, one can be found curled up inside a flower or sunning on a blade of grass.

The first bee I found this year was this Lasioglossum sp. This guy was taking a rest on a Snowdrop (Galanthus) flower.

While the smaller bees are enjoying the small flowers of Snowdrops, some larger bees like this Cellophane Bee (Colletes sp.) prefer the larger flowers of the crocuses. This bee is covered in pollen from the various flowers it has visited.

This Cellophane Bee took a rest on a Snowdrop flower.

The third and final bee that I have found this year is this Cuckoo Bee (Nomada).

While the bees are enjoying the array of brightly colored flowers currently in bloom, springtails (Collembola) are enjoying the damp ground that comes with spring rains and melting snow. During a walk through the woods today, I encountered several types of these fascinating creatures.

Snow fleas (Hypogastrura nivicola) are, by far, the most common springtail during the winter. Groups of this and similar species congregate on top of the ice and snow making themselves visible. This time of year, they are harder to find as the snow has melted. However, as long as the ground stays damp, these guys will stay near the surface of the ground, often just under the leaf litter or under a fallen branch.

This small, blue springtail looks similar (in shape) to the Hypogastrura, but the abdomen is more cylindrical. This guy belongs to the group Entomobryomorpha, or elongate-bodied springtails (more specifically, Isotomidae). This group tends to be less gregarious than Poduridae and many species seem to prefer to "run" from danger than to jump.

This brightly-colored springtail (Dicyrtoma fusca) belongs to the order Symphypleona, the globular springtails. These springtails are very good jumpers and will hop out of sight if a potential predator gets too close. This individual was very cooperative and allowed me to get several decent photographs. Keep in mind that this "large" springtail is only a few millimeters in length.

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