Atlas of the European Bees: genus MelectaPierre Rasmont
First on line 29.VIII.2014
Second edition 4.IV.2016Melecta
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
, 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. Acknowledgements
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.
1st edition (http://www.zoologie.umh.ac.be/hymenoptera/biblio/Rasmont_2014_Atlas_of_the_European_Bees_genus_Melecta_1st_edition.pdf
):Rasmont P. 2014. Atlas of the European Bees: genus Melecta
. 1st Edition. STEP Project, Atlas Hymenoptera, Mons, Gembloux. http://www.atlashymenoptera.net/page.aspx?ID=256
2nd edition:Rasmont P. 2016. Atlas of the European Bees: genus Melecta
. 2nd Edition. Atlas Hymenoptera, Mons, Gembloux. http://www.atlashymenoptera.net/page.aspx?ID=256
Melecta (present page)ThyreomelectaThyreus