Svastra / Sunflower Bee

Family: Apidae

Genus: Svastra

Common Name: Sunflower Bee

APPEARANCE

Physical Appearance

Svastra are generally distinguished by a dense covering of light gold colored hair on the head and thorax. They have conspicuous thick bands of pale hair on their abdomens, alternating with bands of dark hair and/or integument. Both males and females have obviously hairy hind legs, with the females also having extremely pronounced scopae covering the lower portion of their hind legs. The males have unusually long antennae.

 

The female carries pollen in a brush of specialized hairs, called a scope, on each hind leg. These scopae are so heavy on Svastra that when they are loaded with pollen, they resemble leg warmers. Svastra are closely related to the genus Melissodes (long-horned bees), which are also distinguished by prodigious scopae on the females and long antennae on the males.

 

Characteristics

Svastra species include both generalists and specialists, with many of the specialists being associated with sunflowers; hence the common name, sunflower bee. Several species of Svastra are specialists of plants in the evening primrose family, and yet another is a specialist of cactus.

 

Size: Medium sized, robust bee, 1/2 to 3/4 inch in length.

HABITS

Distribution

Svastra is found coast to coast and widely distributed throughout most parts of the United States. This genus is restricted to the Americas, with the greatest abundance and number of species occurring in North America.

 

Number of species in North America

Nine, most of which are restricted to the United States. Only one species is found in Canada.

 

Emergence Time
Summer

 

Nesting Habit
Svastra species are mostly solitary ground-nesting bees. Females of some species create their nests close to each other, sometimes even sharing a tunnel nest entrance. Even in these communal situations, however, each female creates and provisions her own brood cells, which she lines with a waxy substance.

 

Pollinated Garden Crops Include

Sunflower

Visited Plants

Bidens / Beggarticks

Chrysothamnus / Rabbitbrush

Erigeron / Fleabane

Grindelia / Gumweed

Helenium / Sneezeweed

Helianthus / Sunflower

Larrea / Creosote Bush

Liatris / Blazing Star

Monarda / Beebalm

Ratibida / Prairie Coneflower

Rudbeckia / Coneflower

Silphium / Rosinweed

Solidago / Goldenrod

Verbesina / Wingstem

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