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Long-horned bees of the genus Melissodes look like furry Chinese dragons. They are robust, medium-sized bees with hairy heads and bodies. Male Melissodes long-horned bees also have unusually long antennae – hence the name long-horned. Females often have long, extravagant hairs on their hind legs, which they use to carry pollen. Many Melissodes long-horned bees have striking green or blue eyes.
Melissodes long-horned bees build solitary underground nests. They emerge from their holes on sunny summer days. They favor plants in the family Asteraceae, which includes wildflowers like New York ironweed, and familiar garden flowers such as daisies and sunflowers.
Long-horned bees prefer aster-family flowers because they have a “composite” structure -- that is, each flower is made up of many small florets, so that the bee can simply walk from one pollen-holding container to the next instead of having to hunt for a new blossom.
The Stone Barns’ Dooryard Garden designed by Laura Perkins, shown below left, is a excellent example of a garden that serves as a haven for diverse species of long-horned bees. This alluring garden contains numerous flowers of the Asteraceae family -- among them, sunflowers, coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, goldenrod, strawflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, cosmos, chamomile, thistles, zinnias and asters.
Many long-horned bees are pollinator specialists that focus on a single kind of flower within the family Asteraceae. The Melissodes denticulata long-horned bee shown above right specializes in pollinating the flowers of native ironweed. The agile long-horned bee, shown below, prefers sunflowers.
(c) Copyright 2016 Paula Sharp and Ross Eatman. All rights reserved.