Melissodes illatus

Digger or Long-horned Bee Melissodes illatus female on Purple Coneflower. July 12, 2006. Wheatley, Ontario.

Digger Bee
Melissodes illatus

Digger or Long-horned Bee Melissodes illatus female on Purple Coneflower. July 12, 2006. Wheatley, Ontario.
Digger or Long-horned Bee Melissodes illatus female on Purple Coneflower. July 12, 2006. Wheatley, Ontario.

Identification: Very small northern black species.
Female:
Head: Entirely shiny black with some gray-white to yellowish hair around antenna bases. Thin line of gray hair along inner eye margin. Top of head with black hair. Back of head with row of yellowish hair curving down to cheeks. Cheeks narrower than eye width. Mandibles black with yellowish-red tips.

Digger or Long-horned Bee Melissodes illatus female on Cup Plant. August 01, 2010. Wheatley, Ontario.
Digger or Long-horned Bee Melissodes illatus female on Cup Plant. August 01, 2010. Wheatley, Ontario.

Antenna: Entirely black, underside of segments slightly lighter. Segment 1 thin, twice as long as segment 2.
Thorax: Covered with short black hair. Segment 1 (scutum) has line of gray-white hairs along base and shoulders (humeri), extending down thorax sides. Segment 2 (scutellum) may have a few gray hairs along lower margin. Rest of sides mixed black and gray. Underside black.
Wings: Wing knobs (tegulae) black. Wings clear to slightly tinted. Veins dark brown to black.
Legs: Black with dark hair, and a few short white hairs intermixed; sometimes more gray-white on shins (tibiae). Pollen basket (scopa) has yellowish hairs, quite dense and feathery. Feet slightly reddish-brown.
Abdomen: Black, somewhat shiny. White stripes mostly thin.
Segment 1 almost bare; short white hair along base and very short hairs along side edges.
Segment 2 has a sparse fringe along base; stripe at mid segment, slants up to base, interrupted at center.
Segment 3 stripe at mid segment, interrupted or not.
Segment 4 stripe much wider across lower edge of segment; a triangle of brown hairs at center.
Segments 5 and 6 dark, no stripes with some long pale tufts at the sides of 5 only.
Underside dark brown, paler at sides.

Digger or Long-horned Bee Melissodes illatus male on Mallow. June 23, 2007. Wheatley, Ontario.
Digger or Long-horned Bee Melissodes illatus male on Mallow. June 23, 2007. Wheatley, Ontario.

Male:
Head: Hair long, pale yellowish-white on face. Top of head (vertex)  mixed brown and yellowish hair, with a line of yellowish hair at back of head. Cheeks much narrower than eye width, lower half covered with short, white hair. Area above mouth (clypeus) entirely bright yellow. Mandibles black, sometimes with small yellowish mark at tip.
Antenna: Base (scape) black. Segments long, black on top side, reddish-brown on underside. Segment 1 no longer than pedicel. Segment 2 very long.
Thorax: Mostly covered with long erect, thick black hair. A few gray hairs along outside edges. Underside has yellowish hairs, visible on lower thorax sides.
Wings: Wing knobs (tegulae) are dark. Wings slightly tinted, veins dark brown.
Legs: Hair dark, with row of pale fringes on each side. Feet reddish, underside with orangish hair.
Abdomen: Black with narrow white stripes at middle of each segment except last 2 segments which also have a small spine at each side edge. Tip with tuft of yellowish hair. Underside dark brown covered with pale yellowish hairs.

Similar Species: Melissodes druriellus female has brownish-yellow hair on back of head and thorax, not gray white as in female M. illatus. Male M. druriellus abdominal stripes are much wider than male M. illatus.  

Size: Female 8 to 11 mm. Male 8 to 9.5 mm.

Habitat: Forest edges and meadows.

Food: Feeds on nectar of flowers, Goldenrod, Aster, Mallow, Cup Plant, Purple Coneflower.

Flight Time: Mid July to September. (Males mid July)

Life Cycle: Unknown. Nests in the ground.

Comments: Essex County – Ojibway Prairies and Point Pelee.
Kent County – Rondeau Provincial Park. Extends north to Algonquin Park. Uncommon.

Synonyms: Lovell and Cockerell 1905
Eumelissodes illata

References:
Psyche, 1905, Vol. 12 by Lovell and Cockerell, pp. 110 to 111.
The University of Kansas Science Bulletin, 1961, Vol. 42, by LaBerge, Pp. 565 to 567.
North Carolina Agricultural Experiment Station, 1962, Technical Bulletin #152: Bees of the Eastern United States by Mitchell, pp. 292 to 294.
Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington, 1972, Vol. 74 by Covell, pg. 11 & 15.
The Canadian Entomologist, 2006, Vol. 138, #2, by Grixti and Packer, pg. 155 table.

Types:
Holotype as Melissodes illata male by Lovell & Cockerell, 1905. Type Locality: Waldoboro, Maine. In the collection of T. B. Mitchell, North Carolina State College, Raleigh, North Carolina.
Lectotype male collected by Lovell, Aug. 13, 1905, designated by LaBerge, 1961. In the United States National Museum, Smithsonian, Washington, D.C. #71578. Photos.

 

 

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