ID GUIDE TO WILD BEES
OF THE NATIONAL BUTTERFLY CENTER

Mission, Texas

FLORILEGUS  LONG-HORNED  BEES
Florilegus

Florilegus condignus?

Size:  11  mm  (male)

Associated plant at NBC:  

Teabush
(Melochia tomentosa)

Plant family:   Malvaceae

When seen:  May 2019  

Detailed Photographs

Florilegus condignus?

Size:  11  mm  (male)

FLORILEGUS LONG-HORNED BEES
Genus Florilegus

The small bee genus Florilegus contains fewer than a dozen species and is found only in the Western Hemisphere.  A single species of Florilegus bees inhabits the United States -- Florilegus condignus.  Translated from the Latin, this name means “rightful flower gatherer". 

 

The species Florilegus condignus is often described as relatively rare.  Nonetheless, in the first week of May, 2019, Florilegus condignus long-horned bees were found in large numbers visiting an array of plants at the National Butterfly Center.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that this unusual species is locally abundant in Hidalgo County, Texas from mid-spring through summer.

Distinguishing traits of Florilegus condignus

Florilegus condignus long-horned bees are about half an inch in length and somewhat resemble the more common Melissodes long-horned bees shown earlier in this Texas bee guide.  Both male and female Florilegus condignus bees have hairy thoraxes, banded abdomens and colorful eyes.

 

Male and female Florilegus condignus differ enough in appearance that the casual observer might not assume that they belong to the same species. 

The female bee's abdomen is banded with wide stripes of dense golden-yellow hairs.  This striking trait makes the female Florilegus condignus fairly easy to recognize for the casual observer.  White and black hairs rim the female bee's thorax.  The female's eyes are a bright blue-green.

 

Male bees have a distinctively "shaggy" appearance.  Their thoraxes are covered with rust-colored hairs, and their abdomens are banded with longish pale hairs; the hair bands continue onto the underside of the bee.  The male bee's clypeus (the face-part above the jaws) is yellow and its eyes are light green. Its antennae are long, yellowish-brown on the front and black on the back. 

The tips of the male bee's antennae are dark --- a trait that can help distinguish the male Florilegus condignus from males of similar Melissodes long-horned bee species.  The jaws of the male Florilegus condignus are also entirely dark; this trait additionally aids in differentiating this species from locally common Melissodes males, most of which have jaws with yellow coloring near the base.

Female Florilegus condignus long-horned bees have bulkier builds than males, bushy scopal hairs on their hind legs and much shorter antennae.  Females' eyes are bluish-green, and their clypeuses are dark rather than yellow. 

 

Other minute traits, too small to detect with the naked eye, distinguish bees of the genus Florilegus from more common Melissodes long-horned bees.  Among others, the female Florilegus condignus bee’s mandibles have a tooth near the inside of each tip, and the female bee's front femur is broadened.  Both males and females have five-jointed maxillary palpi (short mouth-part appendages behind a bee's jaws ). 

In South America, members of the genus Florilegus are more distinctive.  Some, such as the Ecuadorian purple Florilegus (Florilegus purpurascens), are iridescent.

Bee behavior and floral preferences

We owe the most comprehensive research on the genus Florilegus to the renowned Brazilian entomologist, Danuncia Urban.  In 1970, Urban wrote a treatise describing all known Florilegus species and announcing two previously unknown species (Florilegus affinis Urban and Florilegus lavohirtus Urban).  Since then, studies of Florilegus bees in English have been few and have focused on the pollen-collecting habits of North America's Florilegus condignus.

Florilegus condignus is sometimes described in popular literature and databases as a specialist on the blossoms of pickerelweed (Pontederia), a purple aquatic flower found in wetlands, which belongs to the plant family  Pontederiaceae.

 

Nonetheless, Florilegus condignus is probably not a strict specialist. It is often found in association with pea-family plants and was praised by entomologist Wallace LaBerge for its prowess as an alfalfa pollinator.  Florilegus condignus appears at the National Butterfly Center when the pea-family trees honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) and retama (Parkinsonia aculeata) are in full bloom. 

The entomologist Robertson recorded Florilegus condignus  on a fairly wide variety of plants -- including, for example, Asclepias,  Bidens, Blephilia, Cassia, Cephalanthus, Dianthera, Lippia, Lythrum, Psoralea, Pycnanthemum, Teucriurn and Verbena.

 

Large numbers of both the male and female Florilegus condignus bees  were observed at the NBC in May and July 2019 visiting the flowers of teabush, a mallow-family plant once assigned to the same family as cacao.  Male and female bees were also found foraging repeatedly on pigeonberry (Duranta erecta), a plant in the verbena family.  Males additionally drank nectar from Mexican hat (Rabatida columnifera), a composite flower of the aster family.  Pickerel weed, the alleged specialist plant of Florilegus condignus, is not found locally.

A male Florilegus condignus long-horned bee 

Florilegus condignus long-horned bee (c) Copyright 2019 Paula Sharp

A female Florilegus condignus long-horned bee 

a male florilegus condignus long-horned bee - (Copyright 2019 Paula Sharp)

A male Florilegus condignus long-horned bee 

A male Florilegus condignus vs. a male Melissodes tepaneca

WJPEG-Florilegnus-condignus-M-NBC-#261-D

A male Florilegus condignus drinking nectar from Duranta erecta

Florilegus condignus long-horned bee - (C) Copyright 2019 Paula Sharp

The long tongue of a female Florilegus condignus

CITE THIS PAGE:  
Sharp, Paula and Ross Eatman. "Florilegus condignus long-horned bees."  Wild Bees of the National Butterfly Center of Mission, Texas.  15 Jan. 2019,  http://www.sharpeatmanguides.com.  Accessed [day/month/year guide accessed].  

TAXONOMY  OF  FLORILEGUS  BEES

Order:   Hymenoptera

Family:   Apidae

Subfamily:  Apinae

Tribe:  Eucerini

Genus:   Florilegus
Species found at NBC:
    Florilegus condignus

Florilegus Species of the National Butterfly Center

Florilegus condignus Long-horned Bee

Florilegus condignus

 

Family:  Apidae

Size:  11-12  mm (female)
           9.5 - 12.5 mm (male)

Associated plants at NBC:  

Teabush
(Melochia tomentosa)

Plant family:   Malvaceae

Pigeonberry
(Duranta erecta)

Plant family:   Verbenaceae

Mexican hat (male bees only)
(Rabatida columnifera)

Plant family:   Asteraceae

When seen:  May, July 2019  

Associated plant at NBC:  

Teabush
(Melochia tomentosa)

Plant family:   Malvaceae

When seen:  May 2019  

Florilegus condignus long-horned bee - (c) Copyright 2019 Paula Sharp

A female Florilegus condignus long-horned bee

Florilegus condignus long-horned bee - (c) Copyright 2019 Paula Sharp

A female Florilegus condignus long-horned bee

Florilegus condignus - (c) Copyright 2019 Paula Sharp

A male Florilegus condignus long-horned bee

Florilegus condignus - (c) Copyright 2019 Paula Sharp

A male Florilegus condignus long-horned bee

Permissions and Copyright Information:   All images on this site are (c) Copyright 2018-2019 Paula Sharp and Ross Eatman.  All rights reserved. All photographs are protected by registered copyright.  Please contact Sharp-Eatman Nature Photography for written permission before using any of these images for any purpose. 

Last updated November 2019

 1-15-19