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Monday, 23 March 2020

Aneka’s biology lesson for Monday 23 March 2020

Aneka’s biology lesson for Monday 23 March 2020

Today’s lesson, is prepared for my grandchild of primary school age.  
It looks at some insects flying in Cuckfield, West Sussex, UK yesterday.  
In doing so you will be able to answer the following questions;
1.     What is a parasite?
2.     What are the differences between a bee and a fly?

What is this insect?  A bee or a fly?  It looks like a bee but it only has two eyes and one pair of wings. 
 It is a fly.  But its common name is Bee-fly!  Confusing eh?  It is a Dark-edged bee-fly

Scientific name: Bombylius major.

Above is a bee: a solitary bee meaning that the female makes a nest, provides food (nectar and pollen) and lays her eggs all on her own with no workers to help her like a Honey bee or Bumblebee queen.
There are around 200 species of solitary bees in England and they are important pollinators of flowers of fruit and crops like rape or linseed.

The Bee-fly has two very large, forward facing compound eyes for it to hover over spring flowers and suck up nectar through its fixed pointed proboscis, which doesn’t curl up like a bumblebee’s.

This solitary bee looks like the Yellow-legged Mining Bee, Andrena flavipes which is common in southern England at this time of year.  It has five eyes!  Two large compound eyes wrap around the side of its head and it has a triangular group of three, tiny simple eyes on top of its head.
Bees have two pairs of wings which latch together and operate as one.

Another difference between bees and flies is their antennae on their “foreheads”.  They are long and segmented in bees and short and stubby in flies.

There is a link between these two insects.  The Bee-fly is a parasite.  The solitary bee is its host or prey.  The larvae of the Dark-edged Bee-fly are nest parasites of ground-nesting and solitary bees, feeding on the bee grubs. The female bee-fly flicks her eggs towards the entrance holes of solitary bee nests to allow the larvae to hatch in the right place.  They crawl in and eat the host grubs.

The blog entry describes a plant parasite, the Purple Toothwort.
Click on any picture to enlarge it.

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