Identification Help

A place for bee-ginners to ask questions and receive answers from experienced beekeepers.
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SimiSam
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Identification Help

Unread post by SimiSam » October 13th, 2016, 9:11 am

First, let me say that I am by no means a bee expert. Because of this, I thought it best to ask people who are, hence I am here.

A few days ago, the biggest, reddest and furiest bee I have ever seen in my life made it's way down the exhaust above my stove and entered the house, eventually becoming trapped behind my blinds and tangled in spider web. It stayed there for 2 days, but I was eventually able to capture it between a paper plate and some clear Tupperware. Since I had my hands full, I was unable to take a picture of it, however, after helping it free itself from a ball of spider web, I was able to study it closely in good lighting. The thing was at approximately 1 3/4 inches long, rust colored with light banding, black legs and wings.

I did quite a bit of searching on-line to find out what kind of bee it was, and I eventually found an exact match. It appears to have been a Bombus Dahlbomii. It looked exactly like this:
http://66.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lmhgc ... o1_400.jpg
But this species is native to the extreme southwestern forests of Chile, and lacks the natural ability to migrate anywhere close to where I live (Simi Valley, CA). I have no idea how it might have gotten here. The romantic in me likes to think it hopped a freighter. It wouldn't be the first "long distance traveller" of the insect kingdom I have seen here. We have bark beetles from China, brown widow spiders from Africa (there were none in the US as of 2010, but they are now taking over the black widow. Oh, and they play dead!). My guess is that a small hive of this massive bee hitched a ride somehow, and made it here.

My question is this. Are there other bee species that look exactly like this one? Not close to it, but exactly like it. If not, this is amazing to me, and very good for life on Earth. I was able to capture and release it without harming it. It was literally last seen flying off into the sunset. If it is indeed a Bombus Dahlbomii, it would face much less competition from local bee species, as it is one of the few that can see and pollinate red flowers. And this one at 1 3/4 inches has the potential to become a queen if it was female. The species in in the "red alert" endangered category, meaning it is one the brink of extinction. I would love to see it prosper here.

Anyway, if anyone knows of another bee species that looks exactly like this, please let me know. If this is the only one that does, then it is a fantastic find, and there is hope for the species assuming it can adapt to this climate. If I had known how rare it was, I would have tried to get a picture, but who knew?

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BadBeeKeeper
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Re: Identification Help

Unread post by BadBeeKeeper » October 13th, 2016, 9:48 am

I think it might be more likely to be a male Valley carpenter bee.

http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdet ... ostnum=959

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SimiSam
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Re: Identification Help

Unread post by SimiSam » October 13th, 2016, 11:35 am

I thought about the carpenter bee. It certainly has the size for it, and I have seen (and been stung by) the all black female of the species a few years back, though that one was a bit smaller . But the one I caught was a different coloration. It had a black underbelly, wings and head. And it looked to have longer hair than the carpenter bee. And it was definitely more rust color than gold. It also had very dark colored eyes, versus the green. Can there be that kind of variance in appearance in the carpenter bee? Because in a lot of ways, it would make more sense. The example in the link you provided is consistent with the situation in my back yard, right down to the dead plum tree. It's really just the color and hair length difference that has me unsure about it.

Either way, I'm still happy to have rescued it and released it. The world needs all the bees we can get.

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SimiSam
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Re: Identification Help

Unread post by SimiSam » October 13th, 2016, 7:35 pm

Also, there is the matter of this bees overall size. 1 3/4 inches. Do carpenter bees get that big? The female that stung me a few years back was maybe half as large. Still big, but nothing compared to this one.

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BadBeeKeeper
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Re: Identification Help

Unread post by BadBeeKeeper » October 14th, 2016, 6:31 am

I've seen some pretty big carpenter bees, but I never measured one and I'm certainly not an expert.

Without your bee and an expert to look at it, your guess is as good as mine. But, with 1600 species of native bees in CA, I'm thinking that the odds of it being one of those are just a little bit better than the odds of a dying South American species managing to hitchhike to CA and set up shop. Impossible? I don't know.

A university entomologist in your state would probably be a better person to talk to...or you could begin your own study of bombus species in CA...

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Countryboy
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Re: Identification Help

Unread post by Countryboy » October 14th, 2016, 8:07 am

Either way, I'm still happy to have rescued it and released it. The world needs all the bees we can get.
If it was a South American bee, perhaps the worst thing you could have done is to release it in California.

There is a time and a place for everything. As I tell people, honeybees in a box are a blessing, but honeybees in a wall of a home are a nuisance.

Invasive species can do a great deal of damage to a local ecosystem that is not used to dealing with the invasive species. Releasing an invasive species is a great way to do a great deal of harm to many organisms, in the misguided hope of helping a single bee.

The next time you see a bee you don't recognize, especially if you suspect it may be from another continent, put it in a jar in the freezer (quarantine) and then identify it.

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Dealing with trying to keep invasive species under control in the US is estimated to cost $120 billion a year. People all had good intentions when dandelions, multi-flora rose, starlings, Africanized honeybees, Asian carp, nutria, and feral pigs were set loose in America.
B. Farmer Honey
Central Ohio

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SimiSam
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Re: Identification Help

Unread post by SimiSam » October 14th, 2016, 10:16 am

I hear what you're saying. But like I said, I had no idea that I might have been dealing with an invasive species. Not until after I released it, and started looking to see what kind of bee it was. As I said, I am not a bee expert. I know a little about bees from working season as a centrifuge operator in a friends honey factory, but not enough to identify all the various species. My assumption had been that it was some kind of local species, and it very well could have been. If I had known it might be an invader, I would have at the very least quarantined it, though I would have tried not to kill it in the process.

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BadBeeKeeper
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Re: Identification Help

Unread post by BadBeeKeeper » October 15th, 2016, 6:06 am

Not to worry Sam, if there's only one, it isn't likely to matter much. If there were more, then one wouldn't matter much anyway. Ironically, the reason that B. Dahlbomii is dying out in S. America, appears to be due to the [intentional] importation and release of a European species of bumble bee that carries a parasite that doesn't affect them much, but does a number on the natives. The European bee is invasive and taking over, driving B. Dahlbomii further and further south.

Thanks for the question, I learned a few things from it. :D

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