Stylopised Bees

08th March 2012
I was in the local churchyard where I have been attempting a photographic record of solitary bees throughout the year. I saw one resting on a leaf and attempted a shot. All I got was one rear view before it flew off. I thought no more of it, but looking at the image on my PC later, I saw that the bee was stylopised.

When bees are parasitised with Stylops flies, the parasites can be seen protruding out between the bee's abdominal tergites. The females are flattish in appearance (they never develop into a traditional looking fly) and remain in the host bee. The males develop properly and then emerge as winged adults. They seek out other stylopised bees and mate with the resident female fly.



The image on the left shows this particular bee, photographed on the 8th March. Stylopised bees often emerge earlier than would be normal and are often "inter-sexes", showing characteristics of both male and female bees. The other images show bees photographed later in the month, one being a closeup of a parasitised bee's abdomen. A male Stylops is in situ, and empty Stylops pupae are visible where other males have already emerged.

There's lots of interesting web articles on Stylops; one here.

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