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Megachile aurifrons (Family Megachilidae)

Golden-browed Resin Bee, Red-faced Mastic Bee

Distribution:

Mainland Australia-wide, including hot, dry inland areas, not recorded from Tasmania, or the north of the Northern Territory and Cape York. In the north this may be due to lack of collecting rather than absence of the species (NSW, VIC, SA, WA, QLD).

Features:

In both males and females the body is parallel-sided and black. There is longish white hair on the mesosoma (thinner on the top) and the metasoma has a patch of white hair on each side of the first segment, and a white fringe on the next two segments. Females are up to 12 mm long, and easily recognised by the bright orange hair on the face, and their distinctive 'nose'; the body and legs are black. Males are smaller, up to 10mm long. The antennae are orange on the underside, and the remainder is brownish black. The fore legs are very distinctive. The lower part has a translucent disc with a large dark central spot, above the disc is a line of long, stout hairs, and below the disc the claws are asymmetrical.

Ecology/Way of Life:

Megachile aurifrons is a resin bee. Resin bees are so-called because the females build nest cells from plant resins and some species use chewed plant material as well. Females use their strong mandibles in the collection and preparation of nesting materials and building the nest.

Megachile aurifrons nests naturally in old borer holes and hollow stems, they have also been recorded by the author nesting in slender, rigid plastic piping in a greenhouse, abandoned mud wasp nests, and a trap nest. The cardboard tubes of the trap nest were lined with masticated plant material and resin, and partitioned into cells using the same material. Each cell contained a thick pollen paste, there were several larvae in each cell.

Adults fly all year in northern Australia, and from spring to late summer in cooler areas.

Flowers visited: Known floral hosts include Angophora, Eucalyptus and Melaleuca, Atalaya hemiglauca.

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

It is probably a significant pollinator in drier areas. Because of its wide distribution, it does not appear to be under threat.

Other Comments:

This species, previously known as Chalicodoma aurifrons, belongs to the bee family Megachilidae. Megachilid bees are solitary, ie each female builds and provisions her own nests, there is no cooperation with other females. Females transport pollen in a scopa (a patch of hairs modified to carry pollen) on the underside of the metasoma; this feature is unique to megachilids. A few parasitic megachilids lay their eggs in other bees' nests. In Australia the family can be divided into three groups based on their nesting habits: resin bees, leafcutter bees and wood-boring bees (distinct from the much larger carpenter bees).

Further Reading:

Dollin, A., Batley, M., Robinson, M. & Faulkner, B (2000). Native Bees of the Sydney Region—A Field Guide. Australian Native Bee Research Centre, North Richmond, NSW, 70pp.

Michener, C.D. (2000) Bees of the World. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. 914pp.

Acknowledgments:

Text and images from Dr Glynn Maynard.

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