Polyester Bee – A Native Bee that Makes Plastic

common solitary univoltine bee

Polyester Bee, (Colletes inaequalis)

This afternoon while photographing the tiny golden flowers of Aromatic Sumac I got this shot of a native bee. I didn’t know what they were and asked around. Mike Arduser identified these as Colletes inaequalis. They are nick-named Polyester Bees because they create a biodegradable synthetic plastic. The female bees lines their egg cavities with a polyester secreted from their abdomen. There is as fascinating story about it in the Washington Post click here.

Here is Mikes email to me:

An absolutely beautiful shot of a mating (or almost mating) pair of Colletes inaequalis, a common solitary univoltine (one generation a year) spring bee throughout Missouri (in every county), the midwest and much of the US, in a great variety of habitats but especially in rich mesic forests with deep soils.. Usually found nesting in large aggregations (in the ground) forming small 1/8th cup-size mounds of soil with a small hole in the center. The elements wear down these tumuli and sometimes there’s just a hole in the ground and no tumuli. The females collect pollen primarily from woody plants (sugar maple, redbud, plums, etc.) and are important pollinators of a portion of our native vernal flora, probably making several nests.. By mid-May they are gone, surviving as the next generation underground, until next spring.

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