Free Access
Volume 35, Number 3, May-June 2004
Page(s) 329 - 337
Apidologie 35 (2004) 329-337
DOI: 10.1051/apido:2004020

A specialized pollen-harvesting device in western palaearctic bees of the genus Megachile (Hymenoptera, Apoidea, Megachilidae)

Andreas Müller and Nicolas Bansac

Institute of Plant Sciences, Applied Entomology, ETH, Clausiusstrasse 25 / NW, CH-8092 Zurich, Switzerland
(Received 16 May 2003; revised 18 August 2003; accepted 5 September 2003)

Abstract - Females of the European leaf-cutter bee Megachile (Megachile) pilicrus Morawitz possess a conspicuous brush of stiff, yellowish-red bristles on the ventral side of the trochanter and femur of their hind legs. Observation of pollen-harvesting females in the field and microscope analysis of scopal pollen contents revealed that the hind leg brush is a specialized device for combing pollen from the inflorescences of thistles and knapweeds (Cardueae, Asteraceae), the exclusive pollen plants of M. pilicrus. Hind leg brushes serving the same purpose were found to be also present in several Megachile species belonging to the subgenus Neoeutricharaea, indicating convergent evolution in these two different Megachile lineages. Compared to all other species, the hind leg brush of M. (Neoeutricharaea) apicalis is distinctly less developed which is assumed to be associated with its polylectic habit.

Key words: Megachile / Neoeutricharaea / pollen-harvesting device / Cardueae / flower specialization

Corresponding author: Andreas Müller

© INRA, EDP Sciences, DIB, AGIB 2004