SWRS Trip, Day 5: Agave
Today we went in search of Lithurgopsis apicalis, a cavity-nesting bee in the family Megachilidae, which nests in the dried flower stalks of Agave palmeri. This bee’s nesting biology was recently reported in a paper by Jerry Rozen & Glenn Hall, based on their work near the Southwestern Research Station in 2014 (link here). With some encouragement from Jerry & Glenn, we decided to try to track down some Lithurgopsis larvae in the Agave stalks. Luckily for us, Bob Minckley joined us for the hunt.
Turns out Bob did his Masters looking at Xylocopa nest site preference in Agave stems and is quite proficient at cutting down the flower stalks. There was some blood involved, but ultimately we got Lithurgopsis larvae! One stalk we cut down had five nest cells we could see along one section. Rather than break it open in the field, we brought two sections of stalk back to the lab and got Jerry’s help to carefully break open the nest tunnels and retrieve the larvae.
We also got three larvae of a bonus bee, some Megachilid in the Osmiini, which also nested in one Agave stalk and constructed cell partitions with masticated leaf material. We’re not entirely sure what the bonus bee is since we didn’t find an adult, but will hopefully do some sleuthing and possibly follow-up nest hunting to figure it out.
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