Atlas of the West Palaearctic species of the genus Melecta Latreille, 1802

author(s) : Rasmont P.
Atlas of the European Bees: genus Melecta
Pierre Rasmont

First on line 29.VIII.2014
Second edition 4.IV.2016

Melecta is a quite small genus that includes less than 50 species all over the world. Michener (2007) mentions 44 species for the Palaearctic and only 4 Nearctic ones.

They are all solitary species, all cleptoparasites of Anthophorini. The species of the subgenus Melecta s.s. are mainly related to Anthophora spp. hosts. The species of the subgenus Eupavlovskia parasite most likely only species of the genus Habropoda. The hosts of species of the subgenus Paracrocisa are not clearly identified but should be likely Anthophora of the subg. Paramegilla.

As far as we know, it does not seem that Melecta are specialized foragers. They seem to visit side by side the same flowers than their Anthophorini hosts. Most of these flowers have long corollae, as Boraginaceae, Lamiaceae, Fabaceae (Leguminosae), Plantaginaceae (former Scrophulariaceae) and Compositae from the Carduae tribe (thistles).

Melecta are nowhere abundant. All species are quite fast flyers but to the opposite of their loud and high pitched Anthophorine hosts, Melecta are silent flyers. They are rare and appear isolately. They also do not seem to fly in circuit as Anthophora do. Meaning that if you miss it at first look, the specimen most likely does not fly back. For all these reasons, they are extremely difficult to sample. They are very rare in collection compared to their hosts. To give an order of magnitude, while European bumblebees have been sampled in million(s), Anthophora have been collected in tens of thousand and the Melecta in few thousands. While some of the most active bee specialists sampled more than hundred thousands bumblebees, for Melecta, the most active recorders F. Amiet and K.M. Guichard sampled less than 150 specimens each. It is impossible to assess if species are naturally rare or if they are just undersampled because of their discrete behaviours.

Beside the most common Melecta albifrons that is the only species easy to identify, most species are difficult. They require genitalia extraction but unfortunately these organs are much more difficult to extract than those of anthophorini or bumblebees as they are small and quite deeply folded into the abdomen. Moreover, the females of several species cannot be identified at all.

While Lieftinck (1969, 1972, 1977, 1980, 1983) separates the West Palaearctic Melecta in 4 different genera, Melecta s.s., Eupavlovskia., Paracrocisa and Pseudomelecta, Michener (2007) lumped all these taxa as subgenera into the sole Melecta genus. As I like to advocate for large genera that include easily identified units I like better to follow here the more convenient Michener's classification.
The main papers needed to identify the species are Lieftinck (1969) for the subg. Eupavlovskia, Lieftinck (1972) for Pseudomelecta Lieftinck (1977) for the subg. Paracrocisa and Lieftinck (1980) for the subg. Melecta s.s. The keys in this last paper are nearly impossible to use and I wrote a much more practical digest for the West-Europe (Rasmont 1984).
Because of the extreme difficulty to approach Melecta and the difficulties to identify them alive, there are very few photographs of living specimens available.
The 1st edition (Rasmont 2014) displayed very provisonal maps. This 2nd edition now provides mostly comprehensive up-to-date maps.


The first edition of this page has been constructed in the framework of the STEP project - Status and Trends of European Pollinators - Coordinator: Simon Geoffrey Potts, University of Reading. STEP Partners to Objective 1 (Document the status and trends of pollinators, map distributions): University of Mons (Prof. Pierre Rasmont; Denis Michez; Stephanie Iserbyt; Yvan Barbier); University of Reading (Stuart Roberts).

Many thanks to Manu Dehon and Dimitri Evrard for their help.

Pierre Rasmont

1st edition (
Rasmont P. 2014. Atlas of the European Bees: genus Melecta. 1st Edition. STEP Project, Atlas Hymenoptera, Mons, Gembloux.

2nd edition:
Rasmont P. 2016. Atlas of the European Bees: genus Melecta. 2nd Edition. Atlas Hymenoptera, Mons, Gembloux.

Other Melectini

Melecta (present page)

Melecta Latreille, 1802

European bees
Melecta sp Latreille, 1802
This map summarizes the data already used. It includes a total of 5815 data for 39 species.

Dataset 4.IV.2016 included (total 6045 data): BDFGM (Belgium, P. Rasmont & E. Haubruge) 3962 data; BWARS (UK, S.P.M. Roberts) 860 data; CSCF (Switzerland, Y. Gonseth) 741 data; NMOK (Germany, through GBIF) 74 data; J. Straka (Czech Republic) 42 data; NMR (Netherlands) 41 data; WID (Belgium J. D'Haeseler) 38 data; David Baldock (UK) 27 data; SSIC (Sweden, B. Cederberg & M. Franzen) 22 data; other 109 data.

Main recorders have been: F. Amiet (138 specimens), K.M. Guichard (136), H. Teunissen (75), K. Warncke (64), M. Schwarz (62), P. Rasmont (54), H. Priesner (53), M. Klein (53), T. Steck-Hofmann (52), A. Nadig senior (51), G. Grandi (48), Baldini (47), M.A. Lieftinck (43), J. Pérez (41), etc...

Litterature data: It includes mainly Lieftinck (1969, 1977, 1980).

P. Rasmont
Melecta aegyptiaca Radoszkowski, 1876
Melecta (Melecta) aegyptiaca Radoszkowski, 1876
=Melecta lindbergi Lieftinck,1958

This species is quite rare and scattered all around the Mediterranean basin. Out of this main area, it is noticeably present in Slovakei and in Hungarn.

Hosts are unknown, but see remark below.

As foraging plant, Lieftinck (1980) only mentions one male on Anchusa officinalis in Hungarn. I found 4 females in Morocco near Errachidia on Brassica oleracea. I also found one female in Porquerolle Island (S. France) foraging Vicia sp.; M. aegyptica was flying there side by side with only one Anthophora species, A. (Pyganthophora) atroalba, specially abundant there.

P. Rasmont
Melecta albifrons (Forster, 1771)
Melecta (Melecta) albifrons (Forster, 1771)
=Melecta punctata (Fabricius,1775)
=Melecta armata (Panzer,1799)
ssp. albifrons
ssp. albovaria (Erikson, 1840)
ssp. nigra Spinola, 1806

Three subspecies are recognized: ssp. albifrons, in northern part of the area, with whitish-braunish tinged bands, and ssp. albovaria in southern part, with pure white bands. The nearly all black ssp. nigra mainly occurs in Corsica, Sardinia and Italy.

This is by far the most abundant and widespread Melecta species. It occurs in nearly all countries of the West-Palaearctic, except Eire and Fennoscandia. Even if it is the most widespread species, it is nevertheless nowhere abundant.

It cleptoparsites mainly Anthophora (Anthophora) plumipes but also A. (Anthophora) fulvitarsis and A. (Melea) parietina, where these species occur.

It does not seem specialized in foraging plants. There are observations mainly on Tanacetum, Aubrieta, Anchusa, Saponaria, Glechoma, Echium, for the females and on Rosmarinus, Brassica, Anchusa, Lamium, Taraxacum, Lavandula, Cheiranthus, Arabis for males.

P. Rasmont
photo  photo  photo
Melecta alcestis Lieftinck, 1980
This species is still only known by the 2 male specimens of the typical serie from Russia and by one single more or less doubtfull specimen found in an autobus in Israel.
Melecta amanda Lieftinck, 1980
This species is only known by very few female and male specimens from Central Asia (Turkestan). Only one female specimen has been collected in the West-Palaearctic, in Sarepta (Volgograd), in 19st century. It may be either extremely rare or extinct in the region.
Melecta angustilabris Lieftinck, 1980
Melecta (Melecta) angustilabris Lieftinck, 1980
This species known from males and females cannot be mistaken with any other of the genus thanks to its very elongated labrum. It also display very different colour pattern in males and females, and that is very unusual in this genus. While the males show the usual pattern black with large white patches, the females are generally mostly black, with few white hairs.

So far, the species is only known from Egypt and Israel.
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Melecta ashabadensis RADOSZKOWSKI,1893
Melecta (Melecta) ashabadensis Radoszkowski,1893

This species is presently known by few females from Turkmenistan. After Lieftinck (1980), other locations mentionned by Radoszkowski and Friese (Armenia, Syria) were misidentifications. Grace (2011) mentions it presence in Turkey but without any precision. It should need confirmation.
Melecta assimilis Radoszkowski, 1876
Melecta (Melecta) assimilis Radoszkowski, 1876

This species is only known by very few specimens from Egypt.

Nothing is known about its hosts.
Melecta atripes MORAWITZ,1895
Melecta (Pseudomelecta) atripes Morawitz, 1895

Map complete

Melecta atroalba (Lieftinck, 1972)
Melecta (Pseudomelecta) atroalba (Lieftinck, 1972)
=Pseudomelecta atroalba Lieftinck, 1972

Map complete

Melecta baeri (Radoszkowski, 1865)
Melecta (Melecta) baeri (Radoszkowski, 1865)

This large sized species only occurs in Central Asia, reaching the current geographical frame at eastern margin. The type being from Caucasus (with no further precision).

There are few data and nothing about its hosts.
Melecta brevipila Lieftinck, 1980
Melecta (Melecta) brevipila Lieftinck, 1980

This species is only known by very few specimens from Almaty (Kazakhstan) and Konya (Turkey). Nothing is known about hosts and flower choices.
Melecta canariensis Lieftinck, 1958
Melecta (Melecta) canariensis Lieftinck, 1958

This species is endemic to Canary islands. Its type is likely from Gran Canaria and further data indicates Lazarote (Baez & Ortega, 1978).
Melecta caroli Lieftinck, 1958
Melecta (Melecta) caroli Lieftinck, 1958

This is one more species of the rich Melecta fauna from Canary islands. This one is endemic to the Lanzarote and Fuerteventura islands.

No data about hosts and flower choices.

Melecta corpulenta Morawitz, 1875
Melecta (Melecta) corpulenta Morawitz, 1875

This large species is known from Israel, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan only, with few specimens in collection. Following Lieftinck (1980), there are several confusions in litterature between this species and M. baeri.

No data bout hosts and flower choices.
Melecta curvispina Lieftinck, 1958
Melecta (Melecta) curvispina Lieftinck, 1958

One more of the melectines endemic to Canary islands. This one is conspicuously recognisable thanks to its long curved spines on both sides of scutellum (in males and females). It is the most abundant species in Gomera, Grand Canaria, Palma and Teneriffe. It does not occur in other islands.

As flower choices, there are Echium spp. and Galactites tomentosa. Nothing is known about hosts.
Melecta diligens Lieftinck, 1983
Melecta (Melecta) diligens Lieftinck, 1983
= Melecta alecto Lieftinck, 1980:273

This species is known from few specimens from Israel, Palestina, Turkey, Syria and Iraq. Out of est-Palaearctic, it is known from Asia Central.

No data about hosts and flower choices.
Melecta duodecimmaculata (Rossi, 1790)
Melecta (Melecta) duodecimmaculata (Rossi, 1790)
= Melecta plurinotata Brullé, 1832
= Melecta quatuordecim-punctata Fischer de Waldheim, 1843
= Melecta sôderbomi Alfken, 1936
ssp. duodecimmaculata (Rosi, 1790) [Europe, N. Africa]
ssp. jakovlewii Radoszkowski, 1877 [Astrakhan obl., Asia Central].

This is the largest West-Palaearctic species. It also shows a very conspicuous pattern with a double raw of white patches on abdomen.

It occurs from Portugal to the west to Central Asia and China to the east but I have no data from Caucasian region and from Iran. It occurs in N. Africa but I have not yet any data from Morocco.

It is noticeable that most data seem ancient, meaning that the species could suffer from regression. In France, e.g., only one specimen as been observed in 1889.

As host, Anthophora (Lophanthophora) hispanica is the most probable, as it is the only species with compatible size and phenology.

As flower choices (few data), there are Asphodelus ramosus (favorite), Lavandula spp., Rosmarinus officinalis.
Melecta festiva Lieftinck, 1980
Melecta (Melecta) festiva Lieftinck, 1980

This species has been described quite recently (Lieftinck, 1980). It is a brightly ornated species, conspicuously recognisable by its large rectangular withe abdominal patches. It occurs here and there from Portugal to the west to Turkmenistan to the east. It does not occur at all in N. Africa and there are still no data from Iran.

It looks specially abundant in S.E. France where it is generally foraging side by side with Anthophora (Lophanthophora) affinis and the very near A. (Lophanthophora) mucida. Even if there is presently no nesting observation validating host relationship, these two Anthophora species are the most likely involved. It is noticeable that Melecta festiva is absent from N. Africa despite the occurence of these potential hosts.

As foraging plants, there are few available data: Lavandula stoechas (seeming its favorite choice), Buglossoides purpuo-caerulea, Echium vulgare, Satureja montana, Saponaria ocymoides, Thymus vulgaris.
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Melecta fulgida Lieftinck, 1980
Melecta (Melecta) fulgida Lieftinck, 1980
map complete

Melecta fumipennis Lieftinck, 1980
Melecta (Melecta) fumipennis Lieftinck, 1980
Map complete

Melecta funeraria Smith, 1854
Melecta (Eupavlovskia) funeraria Smith, 1854

Map complete

Melecta gracilipes Lieftinck, 1980
Melecta (Melecta) gracilipes Lieftinck, 1980

Map complete

Melecta grandis Lepeletier, 1841
Melecta (Melecta) grandis Lepeletier, 1841

Map complete

Melecta guichardi LIEFTINCK, 1980
Melecta (Melecta) guichardi Lieftinck, 1980

Map complete

Melecta guilochei WARNCKE,1974
Melecta (Paracrocisa) guilochei Dusmet y Alonso, 1915

Map complete

Melecta honesta PERKINS,1914
Melecta (Melecta) honesta Lieftinck, 1980

Map complete

Melecta italica WARNCKE,1965
Melecta (Melecta) italica Radoszkowski, 1876

Map complete

Melecta kuschakewiczi WARNCKE,1975
Melecta (Paracrocisa) kuschakewiczi (Radoszkowski, 1890)

Map complete

Melecta leucorhyncha WARNCKE,1967
Melecta (Melecta) leucorhyncha Gribodo, 1893

Map complete

Melecta luctuosa WARNCKE,1967
Melecta (Melecta) luctuosa (Scopoli, 1770)

After Melecta albovaria, M. luctuosa is the second most abundant and widepread Melecta species in the West-Palaearctic. It does not occur in Eire, Norway, Finland and Baltic countries in the north. It is also absent from all N. African countries, except Algeria, and also from Lebanon, Syria, Israel and Jordan, in the South.

It does not include different subspecies and it is quite constant in coloration in its whole distribution. North of the 45th latitude, it is the only species with large white spots on abdomen, and that makes it easy to identify. South of this latitude, the females are imposible to separate from those of M. leucorhyncha, where both species occur. The males are quite easy to separate thanks to genitalia.

It cleptoparasites mainly Anthophora (Pyganthophora) retusa, A. (Pyganthophora) aestivalis. Iuga (1958) also mentions A. (Melea) parietina.

It does not seem to be specialist forager. Iuga (1958) mentions Anchusa, Cynoglosum, Salvia and Glechoma as foraging plants. The BDFGM also includes numerous data for Thymus, Euphorbia, Trifolium, Echium (females) and Ajuga (males).

Melecta luctuosa is strongly regressing in England, Belgium, Netherland and in most part of Germany, likely due to the regression of its most common hosts.

P. Rasmont
Melecta mundula ALFKEN,1935
Melecta (Melecta) mundula Lieftinck, 1983

Map complete

Melecta nivosa MORAWITZ,1893
Melecta (Melecta) nivosa Morawitz, 1893

Map complete

Melecta obscura (KIRBY,1802)
Melecta (Eupavlovskia) obscura Friese, 1895

Map complete

Melecta prophanta BLUETHGEN,1925
Melecta (Melecta) prophanta Lieftinck, 1980

Map complete

Melecta rutenica RADOSZKOWSKI,1893
Melecta (Melecta) rutenica RADOSZKOWSKI,1893

Map complete
Melecta sinaitica PEREZ,1895
Melecta (Paracrocisa) sinaitica (Alfken, 1937)

Map complete

Melecta solivaga SMITH,1847
Melecta (Melecta) solivaga Lieftinck, 1980

Map complete

Melecta transcaspica KRIECHBAUMER,1873
Melecta (Melecta) transcaspica Morawitz, 1895

Map complete

Melecta tuberculata SMITH,1844
Melecta (Melecta) tuberculata Lieftinck, 1980

Map complete

Melecta turkestanica RADOSZKOWSKI,1893
Melecta (Melecta) turkestanica Radoszkowski, 1893


Iuga V.G. 1958. Fauna Republicii Populare Romîne. Hymenoptera Apoidea Fam. Apidae Subfam. Anthophorinae. Academia Republicii Populare Romîne, Bucuresti, 270 pp.
Lieftinck M.A. 1969. The melectine genus Eupavlovskia Popov, 1955, with notes on its distribution and host relations (Hymenoptera, Apoidea, Anthophoridae). Tijdschrift voor Entomologie, 112(4): 101-122.
Lieftinck M.A. 1972. Further studies on Old World Melectine bees, with stray notes on their distribution and host relationships (Hymenoptera, Anthophoridae),. Tijdschrift voor Entomologie, 115(7): 1-55, 2pls.
Lieftinck M.A. 1977. Notes on the melectine genus Paracrocisa Alfken, with a new record of P. sinaitica Alfken (Hymenoptera, Anthophoridae). Tijdschrift voor Entomologie, 37: 125-127.
Lieftinck M.A. 1980. Prodrome to a monograph of the Palaearctic species of the genus Melecta Latreille 1802 (Hymenoptera, Anthophoridae). Tijdschrift voor Entomologie, 123(6): 129-349, 8 pls.
Lieftinck M.A. 1983. Notes on the nomenclature and synonymy of Old World Melectine and Anthophorine bees (Hymenoptera, Anthophoridae). Tijdschrift voor Entomologie, 126(12): 269-284.
Michener C.D. 2007. The Bees of the World. Second edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 953 p.
Rasmont P. 2014. Atlas of the European Bees: genus Melecta. 1st Edition. STEP Project, Atlas Hymenoptera, Mons, Gembloux, 10 p.
Rasmont P. 2014. Clef des Melectini de France (Apidae). Université de Mons, Belgique, 28 p.