Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Bumblebee (Or mimic?) on Scat

Whose scat? Not large, canid-like, deposited on top of a large rock. I noticed it from a distance (good eye for scat), and expected to see raccoon scat, because of the prominent placement. But lots of critters like to advertise. I think it is probably fox scat, but could be coyote. You can see small animal bone and hairs in it.


The bumblebee is medium size, not as big as the big fat ones that roll in the rugosa blossoms, or as small as the little ones that came to the honeysuckle when it was in bloom. Unfortunately the picture doesn't show the squared-off looking back end. The mouth parts, or whatever they are, are quite fearsome looking. A quick search didn't turn up any scat-eating bumblebees, and I didn't know how else to look, so I don't know what kind of Bombidae this might be.

Bev at Burning Silo has a post about bumblebees here, where she talks about the great variety in the family (and has marvellous pictures of a couple of examples). She doesn't mention this behaviour, but does direct the bee-curious to an identification page, here. So I went to take a look. There's a lot to learn about collecting the field marks of bumblebees.

The mouth parts, or proboscis, or whatever, kept bothering me. It's not unusual that I'm surprised by what I see in a macro photo, but really, do bees look like that? I Googled "bumblebee mimcs." Came up with a bunch of insects, nothing as bumblebee-like as this one. It's a bumblebee.....isn't it?

Added later: The more I look at this photo, the more I doubt that this is a bee (hence title change). More research but still no answer....watch for updates, or if you know what has a face like this critter, please leave a comment.

9 comments:

Lynne said...

I always thought the nasty end of a bee was the back end!

Pamela Martin said...

Lynne, thanks for stopping by. I'm looking forward to seeing Hasty Brook!

Yes, the front of this thing is pretty scary looking--I'm coming around to think that it's not a bee at all, but some kind of mimic. If it is, it's a fantastic one--I was very careful not to rile it taking the picture.

bev said...

I've been meaning to return to comment on this photo after looking at it a day or so ago. I'm not quite sure what to make of it, but I think it's a bee and not a bee mimic fly. The antennae seem bee-like, and also the shape of the hind legs. Although the mouth parts look pretty weird, some bees do look like that. Here's a page that you may have seen about bumblebee mouthparts - see the photo of the bee at the center bottom of the page as it does look rather similar. That said, I've never seen a bumblebee on scat before. Also, there are weird looking bee-mimics that have strange looking mouth parts. I just photographed a mimic of the a red-tailed bee that has a very strange looking proboscis. Wish I could see more of it, but it had its face buried in a thistle flower.
I'm still working on learning more about Bombus species -- there is such a variation in size, shape, etc.. I may start collecting dead ones that have been killed by Phymata in the oldfield pastures here at the farm. It would be interesting to study them under magnification to learn more about their anatomy.

Pamela Martin said...

Bev, I'm so glad you've weighed in on this. Thanks for the links. So, it could be a bumblebee after all. I had persuaded myself that it must be a fly of some kind, but have been unable to find any that looked like it.

I like your picture of the bee-fly--nice of it to hold its wings open, as a bee-fly should. I saw a red-tailed bumblebee in the garden today--carrying pollen sacks, so bee, right? I tried to get a picture--but as usual, bumblebees move to fast to easily get them in focus. Unlike the bee on the scat...

bev said...

I'm pretty sure that any insect with pollen sacs on the leg is one or another kind of bee. Right now, there are a lot of very small bumblebees around -- different species seem to come and go throughout the season. Most of the ones here are a small red-tailed species, but there's an even smaller mostly black species around my place too. I've definitelyl found it useful to check for dead bees killed by phymata in the fields as the summer progresses because that gives me the best chance to see some of the bee species that are moving around too much to get a good look at.

Paul Decelles said...

Looks like a bumble bee to me. First, the eyes are oval rather than circular as is more typical for bees. Also the hind legs have flattened pollen baskets not seen in flies.

Could you tell if it had one or two pairs of wings? Looks like two to me which would clinch the matter.

Anonymous said...

Hi,
I have just started a three year project on bumble bees in the UK, so I am not an expert yet, but I can tell you that the mouthparts are correct. Bees have mandibles (like ants) and a fairly complex tongue--which you see here. It is enclosed in a chitinous sheath. Usually it is tucked under the bee. The wings are too dark to be a bumble bee, and I am fairly certain you wouldn't find one on scat, so I suggest it is either a species of carpenter bee or a species of mining bee. They often have dark wings and use whatever material is arround to 'glue' their nests together. Great photo.
Sophie

Anonymous said...

I know this was posted a couple years back but for the last week or so, there is this strange looking "bumble bee" type creature that has been pollinating the potted flowers that have been attracting my humming birds and butterflies as well as regular bees... He/she has a "fantail" backside making the entire insect appear slightly longer than a regular bee and is not as plump. I will try to get a picture of it today because I am turning up nothing with my searches. It does not seem to be too bothered by me when I come around to water the plants late afternoon but will indeed fly off if he feels the water is getting too close.

Anonymous said...

ditto here. i am in Tennessee and with herb garden, especially the Oregano bush, had carpenters, bumbles, honey-bees and this new weird bumble-like bee with Fan Tail on its back end and long antennae. its body is more 'curved' vs. round or oval for most bumbles & honey-bees - sort of flat-ish and curved, if i am remembering right.

have reddish-brown bat also in the back yard, likely Eastern Red bat, very "furry" - he eats a lot of the insects.

have some typical black bats in the front yard - they are rather adventurous.

The sparrows will not leave the Eastern Red bat alone - when he tries to drink from our swimming pool, they attack and dissuade him.