Peaceful Mourning Bee, Melecta pacifica variety atlantica
Apidae or Bee Family


Small bumblebee impersonator, about 1/2 inch long. Completely black, except for a orangish cape of fur on the back of the thorax. Wings transparent black.

Known from much of the United States and southern Canada, but rarely seen. It has no official common name, but members of the genus Melecta are known as mourning bees, and pacifica means peaceful, so I have christened it the peaceful mourning bee. If you are lucky you may see it nectaring from flowers in Wildwood; the one photographed was on a hoary puccoon.

Mourning bees are cuckoo bees, named after the cuckoo bird, the female of which lays her eggs in other bird's nests. Cuckoo bees sneak into the nests of other bees and lay their eggs in a cell already containing a host's egg. The cuckoo bee's egg hatches and the larva eats the food that was stored for the host's larva, usually along with the unfortunate host larva itself. The technical term for this is kleptoparasitism (or cleptoparasitism), since the cuckoo bee's larva steals food from the host's stores. Melecta bees are kleptoparasites of solitary burrowing flower bees of the genus Anthophora: presumably these also live in Wildwood.

Bumblebees are similarly colored and furred, but larger.


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