Turkana Bees

Dear All

Greetings – have been travelling with limited email access (and time!). A few weeks ago I was in northern Kenya at the Turkana Basin Institute looking at bees.

A yellow-flowered legume, Crotolaria, was blooming in one site near the river and it was covered in some of the most amazing bees… Here are a few of them.

We started looking for bees early in the morning. In a sheltered area in a glade I found these beautiful orange Lipotriches bees collecting pollen from Cenchrus grasses. Most bees are solitary and gather pollen from plants to provision a nest where they lay eggs. This is what the Lipotriches were doing.

A pair of Lipotriches bees foraging on pollen from Cenchrus grass


The most striking bee we found was this Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa sp.) that had the most incredible bright blue eyes! It flew around quite aggressively occasionally chasing off other Carpenter Bees that ventured too close to its patch of flowers.

Blue-eyed Carpenter Bee!


The most common bees visiting the flowers were various species of Leafcutter Bees (Megachilidae). These are bees that cut circles from leaves and use them to construct their nests by joining them up and lining a tube. They are also among the most elegant and beautiful of bees… They also fly very fast and zip about nervously from flower to flower so I had to be both patient and fast so as to capture some photos of them.

A Leafcutter Bee approaching the flowers


There were several different kinds of Leafcutter Bees around, including this large grey species:

Leafcutter Bee - note the yellow underside of the abdomen - that's where these bees carry pollen.


Another smaller Leafcutter Bee species


Leafcutter Bees are good at "tripping" flowers - bending them down to get more nectar out...


There were hundreds of bees flying about at the same time. Some of the bees chased each other away, but some of them were happy to share the flowers…

Leafcutter Bee (above) and Macrogalea bee (below) feeding near each other.

Feeding from flowers lower down was this interesting solitary bee species in the Halictidae family… beautiful with its black-and-white stripes…

A Halictid Bee weaving about the Crotolaria flowers.


More from the world of bugs soon!



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