Monthly Archives: July 2015

Masked Bees in the Parsley

After two good years of harvest, my parsley plants have finally started producing sprays of tiny white flowers (fly for scale):


In addition to attracting flies, the tiny flowers have been teeming with tiny bees as well, Hylaeus, the masked or yellow-faced bees.


Can you guess where the name comes from?

A female masked bee, with two vertical yellow stripes on her face.

A female masked bee, with two vertical yellow stripes on her face.

Masked bees are often mistaken for flies, because of their small size, or wasps, because of their shape and color. But these diminutive bees add up to 700 species worldwide, 14 of which can be found in North America.


Like other bees, masked bees carry pollen and nectar from flowers to their nests, where they feed their young. Unlike other bees, which collect pollen on the outside of their bodies, masked bees carry pollen by eating it and storing it in their digestive tract. I found it entertaining to watch females try to stuff as much pollen in their mouths as possible before flying away.




As unprofessional as it sounds, I must admit that I’ve always found masked bees very endearing. Thank you for letting me share a bit about them with you!



Pollinator Syndromes Part II: The Birds and the Bees

After writing a post on pollinator syndromes , I decided a fun weekend project would be to photograph some flowers in my neighborhood that were good examples of what attracts certain types of pollinators.

I started with the following plant, which I thought would be a great example of something that would attract a hummingbird:

hummingbird plant flower

Birds are attracted to the color red, and the long tubular flowers are the perfect shape for long, thin hummingbird tongues. Sure enough, within 30 seconds a hummingbird arrived at the scene.

hummingbird plant bird

hummingbird plant bird 2

Here are some of the other flowers I photographed on my walk around the block:

Brassica far

Brassica close

The color and shape of the wild radish (Raphanus) flower looks like it would be attractive to bees, flies, and possibly butterflies.

Jupiter's Beard (Cetranthus ruber)

Jupiter’s Beard (Cetranthus ruber)

The purple color is attractive to butterflies, and the tubular shape of these flowers make them ideal for butterfly probosces. The position of the anther (the structure that holds the pollen) and the stigma (receptive part of the female structure) above the flower means it will come into contact with butterflies visiting to drink nectar. Because they are in clusters, they have enough surface area for the butterflies to land when they drink.

Sticky monkey flower (Mimulus aurantiacus

Sticky monkey flower (Mimulus aurantiacus)

M aurantiacus nectar guides

The patterns this flower are likely “nectar guides,” or patterns that guide insect visitors to the nectar reward at the base of the flower. Nectar guides are often found on bee pollinated flowers.

Bumblebee Facts

I haven’t had time lately to put together an in-depth post, but I thought I’d share this poster I made to accompany a live bumblebee observation colony. Happy weekend!

bumblebee facts