Bee of the Month

Bee of the Month for December

Yarrow's fork-tongue bee

Scientific name: Caupolicana yarrowiYarrow's fork-tongue bee

Hometown: The arid tropics; from Arizona and New Mexico (USA) in the north to San Louis Potosi and Guanajuato (Mexico) in the south.

Favorite Season: Summer, especially the late-summer rainy season.

Hobbies: Brewing beer.

Traits: Large, fast-flying, ground-nesting solitary bee who likes coming out in early morning or late afternoon.

Life history: Solitary, univoltine (one generation/year), ground-nesting bee. 

Behavior: Caupolicana yarrowi belongs to a subfamily of large solitary bees that are known for their unusual habit of making “bee beer” (the subfamily Diphaglossinae). Females provision their brood cells with a large quantity of nectar and a very small quantity of pollen. In the case of Yarrow's, the pollen is obtained by “buzzing” the flowers of the Silverleaf nightshade (Solanum elaeagnifolium) and the nectar is obtained from the large flowers of Palmer's century plant (Agave palmeri). The resulting, soupy mixture has abundant fermenting yeasts, probably obtained from the Agave flowers. The soupy provisions smell like Kombucha or Vegemite and the bee larvae swim across the surface of the bubbling mixture eating their “bee beer”. These bees appear to have replaced protein derived from pollen with protein obtained from their fermenting yeasts. But life is not all about partying for these bees – they have to watch out for a common brood parasite: Triepeolus grandis (Apidae). Females of this large, black-and-white brood parasite lay their eggs in the brood cell of Yarrow's. When the Triepeolus larvae emerge from their egg, they attack the host egg or larva and then consume the bee beer – not a happy ending for the Caupolicana larva.

You can make your own “Bee of the Month” button to take home
and learn more about our Bee of the Month every Friday at 4 pm.
Our museum educators will be on hand to answer any questions
you might have about the wonderful world of bees.


Bee of the Month for November

Dawson’s burrowing bee

Scientific name: Amegilla dawsoniDawson's burrowing bee

Hometown: Western Australia

Favorite Season: Springtime (in the Southern Hemisphere)

Hobbies: Spelunking

Traits: Biggest, baddest bee in Australia & a fast flier

Life history: Solitary, univoltine (one generation/year), ground-nesting bee. Females form massive nesting aggregations of over 10,000 nests in bare, red, clay-like soil.

Behavior: Mating involves “scramble competition” in which males aggressively grapple with each other for access to recently emerged, virgin females. Large males generally displace small males so small males patrol the perimeter of the nestsite in the hopes of finding a female who has escaped the advances of their larger brothers. This massive solitary bee was featured in Sir David Attenborough’s series “Life”.




Come see the Bee of the Month at Bees! Diversity, Evolution and Conservation at the Museum of the Earth September 27, 2019 – June 1, 2020. Explore a realm often overlooked – the incredible world of bees! Investigate bees ancient origins, their immense diversity, and the ever-evolving drama between flowers and pollinators.

This exhibit was developed and designed in conjunction with Bryan Danforth, Chair and Professor of the Department of Entomology at Cornell University and author of the book, The Solitary Bees: Biology, Evolution, Conservation. The exhibit was funded by grants from the National Science Foundation and the Tompkins County Tourism Program.