New Species Looks Like Ant, Bee Had a Baby

9 new species of desert bee revealed in Zootaxa study
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 28, 2016 8:21 AM CST
New Species Looks Like Ant, Bee Had a Baby
A bee's full (left), and not-so-full "hair basket."   (Utah State University)

If an ant and a bee had a baby, it would probably look a lot like the male Perdita prodigiosa, one of nine new species of desert bee mesmerizing researchers. All of the newly discovered bees come from the Perdita group of more than 700 species and subspecies of bees in the southwestern United States and Mexico and are useful for pollinating and spreading the seeds of desert plants. But two species—P. prodigiosa and P. pilonotata—are particularly fascinating "with distinctive ant-like males" that look nothing like their mates, reads a Zootaxa study, per Gizmodo. "It's unclear why these males have this unique form, but it could indicate they spend a lot of time in the nest," says entomologist Zach Portman of Utah State University.

Next up will be further study of the nesting habits of the new bees. They create their homes by gnawing holes in sandstone in areas like Mesa Verde in Colorado and California's Death Valley, reports Tech Times. The bees typically head out in direct sunlight during the hottest periods of the day, perhaps as "a way of avoiding predators" who would rather move in cooler temperatures, Portman says in a release. If the bees do encounter predators, their various stripes and spots may act as "camouflage or a form of mimicry," Portman adds. Also of note: Some of the new bees have what scientists call a "hair basket," tiny crooked hairs on the back of the head that collect pollen while they're in flowers. (You can train bumble bees to do tricks.)

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