Rusty the Red Mason bee, pre-copulatory courtship display video

January 23, 2016

in A selection of my garden wildlife videos, Gardening For Wildlife, Red mason solitary bees, Solitary Bee Observation Box

Rusty the Red Mason bee up to his antics again!

I have often seen males on females and filmed them. Yet they were not actually copulating. If anything the males were simply ‘piggy backing’ on the females. I watched as males thrusts their whole body forward making a fast vibrating sound. The ‘business’ end of their bodies were not in contact. What was going on here? When I had a little more time I decided I would investigate this behaviour.

You are being monitored!

You are being monitored!

Females invest a lot of time and effort providing for their offspring and quite simply the males do not! Other than mating, that is it! Females try to find the best possible mate and only mate once, using several cues in their mate selection. It is generally believed that the largest male is usually the strongest, but to these females size is not as important. There are other factors and attributes he will be need to ensure mating. The males with the required combination of traits will be selected.

I'm putting the effort in dear!!

I’m putting the effort in dear!!

You will note that the male is just ‘piggy backing’ at first. As he starts his pre-copulatory courtship ritual, she is assessing his suitability! He moves forward and is almost covering her head. During resting bouts, he stokes her head and antennae. Eventually he will want to mate and will have to move backwards. She will have to raise the tip of her abdomen, allowing him to mate. If she presses the tip of her abdomen underneath herself, that means no! He may try but he’ll be disappointed. He will get the point and fly off as he is wasting his time.

Getting 'the brush off'!

Getting ‘the brush off’!

If he is successful, after mating he will then perform, as described by Seidelmann, a postcopulatory embrace. Sounds lovely, but in fact the Red Mason bee male makes the female unattractive to other males! Male bumblebees leaves a ‘love’ plug or mating plug, which effectively stops other males from mating the queen, although in this case it is more likely an anti-aphrodisiac and not a physical deposit.

Seidelmann describes this as “the male obviously applies an anti-aphrodisiac that reduces female’s attractiveness resulting in protection from other rival male sexual harassment. Protection by odour is only temporarily needed because females eventually reduce their attractiveness and receptivity to mating by themselves within a few days after emergence”.

In some cases the whole mating ritual, can take over 30 minutes!

See the antics of males… Rusty the Red mason bee video.

See also Red mason bees and nest sites,  requirements,  etc., article.

For more information about solitary bees visit BWARS

National Bee Unit (Food & Environment Research Agency) solitary bees info sheet

Interested in Citizen Science and pollinators? The Buzz Club 

For info and link to buy an excellent book Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland by Steven Falk

An extremely useful resource supports this book by a special web site feature within Steve Falk’s Flickr web site which furnishes extra photos and other useful resources to assist with identification.

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