New 'leaf-cutter' bee discovered

2013-01-17 12:02
Bees (Picture: <a href=\\\\>Shutterstock</a> )

Bees (Picture: Shutterstock )

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Cape Town – A new species of leaf-cutter bee has been discovered near Walvis Bay in Namibia. Megachile gobabebensis was named after the only region in which it occurs, Gobabeb.

The species description was published in Zootaxa  this month and forms part of an extensive manuscript which sought to revise the classification of southern African leaf-cutter bees.

The Gobabeb leaf-cutter was described as being unique based on the fifth male foretarsomere. Lead author and bee taxonomist from the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), Dr Connal Eardley, explains that studying this characteristic is equivalent to looking at the bones in the human hand.

Leaf-cutters are so called because of the fascinating way in which they build their nests. “The bees use existing tunnels in twigs and logs to deposit a pollen and nectar paste where they lay an egg, after that they close the tunnel with the collected pieces of leaves,” Eardley told News24.

Southern African leaf-cutters and bees in general provide important ecosystem services which extend to the agricultural industry.

In natural ecosystems bees are important pollinators of wild plants which maintain biodiversity and ensure food for animals. In agricultural systems bees are the main pollinators in orchards and ensure the production of various fruits.

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