Melecta albifrons - a Cuckoo Bee

30th April 2012
The wall of the local village church hosts a large number of nests of the Hairy-footed Flower Bee (Anthophora plumipes). Anthophora males and females are present in significant numbers in the churchyard, the females collecting pollen and the males patrolling - looking for females. I’m also regularly seeing Melecta albifrons; the Cuckoo Bee that specifically parasitises Anthophora plumipes. Melecta albifrons doesn't have a common name.

These bees are about the same size as Anthophora; often with an overall black-and-white appearance due to the patches of whitish hairs on the abdomen and legs. An all-black form of the female is also found occasionally. I’ve seen one once.

I’ve found Melecta generally sluggish in their behaviour and therefore easily approached and photographed. Anthophora are much more active.

Melecta females seek out Anthophora nests and lay their own eggs inside. The Melecta larva then uses the food provisions collected by the host for its own development after killing the host bee’s larva (and any other Melecta larvae apparently).

See the Image Gallery for more images of this bee.

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