Impurest's Guide to Animals #31 - Neon Cuckoo Bee

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ImpurestCheese

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Edited By ImpurestCheese

Well this week has been a stressful one. Between funerals, rocks thrown at my head and the removal of the abscess on my leg there has been little time for writing. Still at least I had time for this, last week the pure power of the pugilistic Peacock Mantis Shrimp was on display. The animal this week was selected by @dboyrules2011 and continues the theme of shiny happy creatures with dark sides…

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Issue #31 Neon Cuckoo Bee

[1]
[1]

Kingdom – Animalia

Phylum – Arthropoda

Class – Insecta

Order – Hymenoptera

Family – Apidae

Genus – Thyreus

Species – nitidulus

Related Species - The Neon Cuckoo Bee is one of 64 species in the genus Thyreus and are known colloquially as Cloak and Dagger Bees (1)

Range - The Neon Cuckoo Bee is native to the coastal areas of North and Eastern Australia as well as Papa New Guinea

Spec Ops Bee

Neon Cuckoo Bees are medium sized solitary bees that are easily recognisable by their metallic blue bodies and purple wings. Crossing the relatively stocky body is a number of black bands that run up to the insect’s bulky thorax (2). Like most bees the imago (or adult) navigates using a mixture of scent and vision, as well as using the fine hairs on the face to sense textural differences when close to an object.

[2]
[2]

While herbivorous throughout their entire life, nectar feeders as adults and pollen eaters as grubs, there is a predatory aspect to the Neon Cuckoo Bee. After mating the female will shadow workers of the Blue Banded Bee (Amegilla cingulata) back to their nest, before following her inside while the hive’s guard is momentarily down. Once inside the Neon Cuckoo Bee will find a partially constructed brood cell and lay her own egg inside before leaving to find more hives to support her offspring (3).

Upon hatching the larval Cuckoo Bee wastes no time in gaining an advantage over the host’s larvae, quickly consuming all the stockpiled pollen and honey inside its cell. By the time the Banded Bee grub hatches the majority of the food is consumed and the Cuckoo Bee larvae ready to pupate. As such the host larvae dies of malnutrition and some time later the adult Cuckoo Bee bulldozes it’s way out of the hive before the host bees realise that they were raising a parasite within their midst.

Ecology 101 - A Brief Guide to Environmental Mechanics #3

Brood Parasitism is a very common practice in the animal kingdom: with birds, bees and fish all practicing this behaviour. The actual process is initially similar to predation, with the biological mother invading the host’s nest, but is actually a form of kleptoparasitism with the resulting parasite offspring stealing food from the host’s own young. Perhaps the most well studied example of brood parasitism is the Common or European Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus).

While initially similar to the behaviour of other avian nest parasites, what makes the Common Cuckoo unique is that, unlike all other known brood parasites, it utilises a wide range of host species, matching the appearance of its eggs as closely as it can to the hosts. The Cuckoo will make sure to remove an egg first, to further sell the deception to its hosts. After that it remains close to the nest in order to make sure the host has taken the bait. Some hosts, such as the European Magpie (Pica pica) will remove parasite eggs resulting in ‘mafia behaviour’ from the Cuckoo, with the entire nest destroyed and any eggs or chicks consumed by the adult, in order to get the magpies to breed again (4)

[3]
[3]

When the parasite offspring hatches, be it a bee, bird or fish, it quickly outstrips the host offspring of resources by growing rapidly, and in most cases will destroy it’s siblings before they can catch up. Often the host species is oblivious to the fact they are raising an impostor until it leaves the nest or hive. While cuckoos and cuckoo bees are well suited for the child free lifestyle, one group of parasites has reversed the trend for its own nefarious purposes.

The Slave Making Ants (also called Pirate Ants) will raise its own young that consist solely of soldier and breeding adults, but rarely produce any worker caste offspring. To rectify this, the soldiers leave the hive and raid nearby ant nests of their pupated young and larvae and drag them back to their own nest. Their the ‘slave larvae’ are washed in the Pirate Ant pheromones as they mature, and upon adulthood hatch thinking that they are part of the colony. These ‘slave workers’ will care for the slave maker’s larvae, take part in colony defence and even participate in raids (sometimes against their old colony) with unflinching loyalty to their masters.

Bibliography

1 - www.arkive.org

2 - http://animalworld.tumblr.com/post/6037913789/neon-cuckoo-bee-thyreus-nitidulus-c-erica-siegel

3 - http://www.brisbaneinsects.com/brisbane_bees/NeonCuckooBee.htm

4 - Payne, R. B. 1997. Avian brood parasitism. In D. H. Clayton and J. Moore (eds.), Host-parasite evolution: General principles and avian models, 338–369. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Picture References

1 - http://38.media.tumblr.com/31dd87020d6716549a782b1b10dc1e78/tumblr_n4faqtcWgc1sq1114o1_1280.jpg

2 - https://farm3.staticflickr.com/2894/11402471003_02c92ea8ca_m.jpg

3 - http://cdn1.arkive.org/media/21/212DF60A-C670-4825-8166-16D1B00B0C59/Presentation.Large/Reed-warbler-feeds-cuckoo-chick-in-nest.jpg

And as seen that is the nefarious Neon Cuckoo Bee and its cloak and dagger skill. Next issue we have @knightsofdarkness2 selection of species, but until then remember to comment, drop a suggestion of a creature to cover and check out the Bestiary of Past Issues

Many Thanks

Impurest Cheese

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deactivated-5c901e667a76c

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I've never seen a blue bee before (but I have seen a blue termite - sort of).

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ImpurestCheese

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@xwraith: Isn't that the exploding kind? Never seen a blue termite but used to get both Blue Banded and Neon Cuckoo Bees in the garden when I lived in Cairns

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laflux

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Great work as always :)

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ImpurestCheese

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@laflux: Thanks, will hopefully get back to some reptile issues very soon

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Wolverine008

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Creepy looking thing. Nice stuff Impurest!

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#7  Edited By deactivated-5c901e667a76c  Moderator

@impurestcheese: Actually, I was referring to the Big Blue Bug in Providence, Rhode Island.

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#8  Edited By Cream_God

I never thought I'd see a bee that's cute :/

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ImpurestCheese

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@wolverine08: Yep but that's not what @cgoodness thinks. Thanks for the comments both of you

@xwraith: Ah what I meant was older termites getting a blueish hue. Said Older Termites can explode to defend the hive

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Knightsofdarkness2

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Awesome article as always! Those bees look creepy.

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TheSpiritStalker

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All insects are evil and must be destroyed.

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Cool!

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BumpyBoo

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#16 BumpyBoo  Moderator

Awww, this is beautiful ^_^

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Ostyo

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@impurestcheese: Well, that's one of the more interesting ways to ensure your babies survival.

Sorry you had such a rough time lately. *hugs*

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@bruxae: You're welcome :-)

@bumpyboo: Thanks, next weeks animal is beautiful as well. Do you want me to add you to the callout?

@ostyo: Yep it is. At least the grub/adult doesn't eat the host like most other Cuckoo Bees do

And yes I have had a rough time recently but luckily I'm 1/8th Cockroach and as such will survive and thrive (probably)

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#19 BumpyBoo  Moderator

@impurestcheese: Yes please! :) Need to go back through these, seems like a really interesting series.

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ImpurestCheese

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#20  Edited By ImpurestCheese
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Straight-Fire

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@impurestcheese: Yay! Neon Cuckoo Bees! ^_^ I've been looking forward to this all week. :-)

They're cute and kinda creepy. Good work Impurest, really enjoyed reading this. =D

Aw, bad week? Sorry to hear that.

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@impurestcheese: Oh my god, are you ok? Last week you got shot at, now rocks and funerals and surgery?

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@impurestcheese: Yeah, that would be worst. Those ants that steal the worker larvae of other hives are quite impressive. Who knew animals could practice slavery too.

Cockroach? I thought you were a sexy smug Caracal?

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#26  Edited By ImpurestCheese

@dboyrules2011: Not a typical bee, did worry a bit about response.

@squares: Yeah Im fine, hell if I could survive being envenomated four years back by a Centipede and a Cobra (two months apart) then I can survive that

@ostyo: Perhaps, but Caracals generally don't survive their accidents. Only a handful of roaches (around 30 species out of 4500) are pests, most are well behaved insects that avoid human habitation. And then you have species like this...

Unnamed Cloud Forest Coackroach
Unnamed Cloud Forest Coackroach

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JoshuaDBr

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Wow, these are some awesome animals! The neon cuckoo bee and the other animals. That mafia behavior of that cuckoo is pretty crazy!

@impurestcheese: Sorry about your week being so rough. Oddly enough, I went to two funerals in the last two weeks. This was a great article though. Great job!

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Straight-Fire

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@impurestcheese: Sorry. Did I say something wrong?

I'm soooo confused right now.

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#29  Edited By ImpurestCheese

@dboyrules2011: By the Goddess no, it's just when I do a request with a lot of freedom to choose the species I get nervous

@joshuadbr: Yep, Brood Parasitism seems weird to mammalian eyes but there is an advantage to it. It requires less time (for bees) and resources (for everyone) then rearing your own children

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#30  Edited By Straight-Fire

@impurestcheese: Hehe! All right. ^_^

I made myself look kinda silly now. xD

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wildvine

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Cuckoo's are thugs.

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ImpurestCheese

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#32  Edited By ImpurestCheese

@dboyrules2011: Meh silly is relative, I spent my day perched in the bay tree in my garden counting bush crickets

@wildvine: State Sponsored or the regular kind?

Also this Cuckoo makes it's own nest and rears it's own chicks so some put the effort in...

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Ostyo

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@impurestcheese: Now that is a colorful roach. But I can't help but imagine you dressed like a roach running around town doing roachy stuff.

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@impurestcheese: Wait... did you just say counting crickets? xD How many did you count?

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ImpurestCheese

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@dboyrules2011: 21 individuals, 2 Species

@ostyo: What running away from intense light and scavenging food of the floor. Pass

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#41  Edited By cbishop

@impurestcheese: Cloak & Dagger Bees? I'm picturing them dressed like the guys in Spy vs. Spy, flying aorund to do the brood predation thing on other hives. Cool bees!

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ImpurestCheese

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#42  Edited By ImpurestCheese

@cbishop: All Bees are cool. Thanks for the comment and the fan fic link

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There are tonnes of bees where I am, but if I came across a blue one, I would probably let it sting me. Just so I can check it out. Assuming they would sting me.

I am impressed with the level of parasitism cuckoo birds have. Brilliant.

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In the nest of the Cuckoo Bee!!!

High fives if anyone gets that reference. All the high fives.

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ImpurestCheese

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@cattlebattle: The Cramps. Or that film from the 60s. But all that matters is that your back <big hug>

@ostyo: Nope

@ms-lola: Nope, Cuckoo Bees don't really sting, they just take massive chunks out of you with their mandibles. And yes the Common Cuckoo is impressive in it's lax attitude to parenting

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@impurestcheese: Thanks for the heads up on the massive chunk removal business. I will scream and run, as per usual.

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#48  Edited By Ostyo
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@impurestcheese said:

@cattlebattle: The Cramps. Or that film from the 60s. But all that matters is that your back <big hug>

Either one is good. I never went anywhere. I wasn't aware that you posted any of these for awhile.

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#50  Edited By ImpurestCheese

@ms-lola: Seems sensible

@ostyo: Well Blue Banded Bees feed mostly on blue flowers and the Neon Cuckoo Bee stalks them so...

@cattlebattle: Every week, all weeks. Do you want to be put back on the callout?