The Zoologist/4th series, vol 2 (1898)/Issue 680/The Insect Visitors of Flowers in New Mexico—I

The Insect Visitors of Flowers in New Mexico—I (1898)
by Theodore Dru Alison Cockerell
4091685The Insect Visitors of Flowers in New Mexico—I1898Theodore Dru Alison Cockerell


By T.D.A. Cockerell,
Entomologist of the New Mexico Agricultural Experiment Station.

While much has been written on the relations between insects and flowers, it must be confessed that the information we possess on this fascinating subject is fragmentary indeed in comparison with what might be known; in other words, there is no locality where flowers grow and insects fly in which new and interesting observations may not be made, while there are whole regions from which we have practically no records.

Hermann Müller, in his 'Fertilisation of Flowers,' gives what might at first sight seem a very complete array of facts, but we find him strongly insisting on the incompleteness of his researches. In America the subject has only been seriously attacked by one observer, Mr. Charles Robertson, whose observations are confined to Illinois and Florida.

The subject is more complicated than might at first be imagined. Repeated observation only confirms the validity of the following rules:—

(1.) Observations made in one year should be repeated in other years, as the results of different years may greatly differ.

(2.) Observations made on a plant in one locality should be repeated in other localities throughout the range of the plant, as the insect visitors are often different in different parts of the plant's range.

(3.) Observations made on plants growing in cultivation, away from their natural habitat, prove little regarding the natural visitors of the plants.

(4.) Observations on the Honey-bee prove little regarding the actions of wild bees; each species of bee must be observed separately, its habits cannot be certainly inferred from observations on other species.

(5.) Observations should be made at different dates during the period of blooming of the plant studied; the visitors at one period may be very different from those at another.

(6.) In every case it is important to state the names of the insects observed. This is perhaps the chief stumbling-block to observers. Even H. Müller in Europe had to leave many of his captures unrecorded, because he could not find out their names. In other countries, where much less is known about the insect fauna, and many of the species are undescribed, the difficulty is much increased.

The object of the present series of papers is to put on record a number of new observations made in New Mexico, adding such comments as the facts may suggest. It will be necessary to introduce more botanical matter than usually appears in the pages of 'The Zoologist'; in fact, similar papers have appeared in botanical journals, their botanical aspect being as important as the entomological.

(1.) Ranunculus cymbalaria, Pursh.—A good patch in flower by the Rio Grande, Mesilla, April 19th, 1897. An ochreous Thrips was pretty common on the flowers, but no other insects, except a single specimen of the small fly, Eugnoriste occidentalis, Coquillett.

(2.) Argemone platyceras, L. & O. (Papaveraceæ).—At Santa Fe, Aug. 3rd, in the afternoon, found many plants with closed flowers, inside which were numbers of bees, all more or less sleepy, crawling but not flying when disturbed. A beetle, determined by Capt. Casey as Carpophilus pallipennis, was also common in the flowers. The bees were as follows:—

(a.) Podalirius occidentalis (Cresson).—Twenty-eight specimens. I have never taken this on any other flower.

(b.) Diadasia enavata (Cresson).—Three. Visits other flowers.

(c.) Melissodes menuacha, Cresson.—Seven.

(d.) M. agilis var. aurigenia (Cresson).—Nine.

(e.) Andrena argemonis, Ckll.—Two. This species was described as new (1896) from these specimens, and no others are yet known.

One specimen of an Otiorhynchid beetle, Peritaxia hispida, Lec, was also taken from the flowers. The consideration of the above case suggests that flowers which are not particularly attractive to bees when open may gain something by affording good sleeping places when closed in dull weather. The bees, when the flowers opened, would fly away, carrying more or less pollen with them, which they might transfer to other flowers. This idea did not occur to me when the observations were made, so I neglected to note the facts which might confirm it.

(3.) Eschscholtzia mexicana, Greene (Papaveraceæ).—On April 21st, near Dripping Spring, Organ Mountains, the flowers were visited by Augochlora neglectula, Ckll., and Halictus lusorius, Cresson, var. These are short-tongued bees.

(4.) Nasturtium sinuatum, Nuttall (Cruciferæ).—By the Rio Grande at Mesilla, April 19th, 1897. The following occurred on the flowers:—

(a.) Diptera.—Several Eugnoriste occidentalis, Coq.; also a Syrphid.
(b.) Coleoptera.—Phyllotreta pusilla, Horn, and a Collops.
(c.) A black Chalcidid.
(d.) Bees.—Andrena salicinella, Ckll., one female; Prosapis mesillæ, Ckll., two males; Halictus subobscurus, Ckll., one female; and Halictus sp., four females.

(5.) Streptanthus carinatus, Wright, var. (Cruciferæ).—At Little Mountain, Mesilla Valley, March 26th, took the following on the flowers:—

(a.) Bees.—Apis mellifera, L., 1758 (mellifica, L. 1761); Agapostemon melliventris, Cresson; A. texanus, Cresson; Halictus bardus, Cresson; H. sisymbrii, Ckll.
(b.) Diptera.—Calliphora erythrocephala, Meig. (det. Coq.); Paradidyma magnicornis, Towns. =singularis, Towns, (det. Coq.).

(6.) Dithyræa wislizeni, Engelm. (Cruciferæ).—On April 9th, on the campus of the N.M. Agricultural College, Mesilla Valley, the flowers were visited by Prosapis mesillæ, Ckll. (male), Ammophila, and Halictus. At Mesilla, May 29th, the flowers were visited by Calliopsis australior, Ckll.

(7.) Pyrus communis (cultivated pear)—On the farm of the N.M. Experiment Station, Mesilla Park, April 12th, the following were seen at the flowers:—Apis mellifera, several; Pyrameis cardui, many; Diabrotica 12-punctata, one, eating the petals. I do not find pear-blossoms at all attractive to native bees in New Mexico; in Europe, on the contrary, Müller observed seven different bees.

(8.) Prunus (cultivated plum).—In Mesilla, April 18th, 1897, I found at the flowers three butterflies—Synchloe lacinia, Euvanessa antiopa, and Anosia archippus; also a Tachinid fly, Archytas lateralis, Macq., and the bees Augochlora neglectula, Ckll. (quite numerous), and Halictus pectoraloides, Ckll. (a few). The Tachinid was identified by Mr. Coquillett.

(9.) Pyrus malus (cultivated apple).—In Mesilla, April 18th, 1897, there were plenty of honey-bees at the apple flowers, but practically no wild bees. I caught on a flower a single Augochlora neglectula. An ochreous Thrips was fairly common on the flowers at one place. One example of Eugnoriste occidentalis was taken. Anosia archippus was visiting the flowers of the topmost branches. Müller found nine bees visiting apple flowers in Europe.

(10.) Bigelovia wrightii, Gray (Compositæ).—I have at different times recorded many insects from the flowers of this plant. The following are some additional data:—In September, close to the Agricultural College, Mesilla Valley, were collected the following: —

(a.) Parasitic Hymenoptera, determined by Mr. Ashmead:—Labeo sp., male; Bracon politus, Prov.; Chelonus electus, Cr., male; Apanteles sp.; Microplitis sp.; Cremnops vulgaris, Cr., female; Agathis tibiator, Prov., male; Microdus fulvescens, Cr., male; Mesostenus sp.; Cremastus sp.; Perilampus platygaster, Say, female; Eurytoma bigeloviæ, Ashm., male; Torymus cyaneogaster, Ashm., female; Catolaccus incertus, Ashm., female; Eupelmus cyaneiceps, Ashm., female.
(b.) Diptera determined by Mr. Coquillett:—Euphorocera claripennis, Macq; Tachina orgyiæ, Towns.; Sepsis violacea, Meig.; Oedopa capito, Loew.

The following Fossorial Hymenoptera, mostly determined by Mr. Fox, are from the flowers of B. wrightii. The Paratiphia was taken at Albuquerque; all the others in the Mesilla Valley: —

Scolia sp. aff. consors, Sauss.—Sept. 11th.
Astatus elegans, Cr., var.—Sept. 11th.
Astatus bellus, Cr.—Sept. 11th.
Astatus bigeloviæ, Ckll. and Fox.—Sept. 11th.
Myzine hyalina, Cr.—Sept. 12th.
Gorytes bigeloviæ, Ckll. and Fox.—Sept. 12th.
Gorytes eximius, Prov.—Sept. 11th.
Nysson solani, Ckll.—Sept. 11th.
Aphilanthops laticinctus, Cr.—Sept. 12th.
Aphilanthops taurulus, Ckll.—Sept. 12th.
Eucerceris canaliculatus, Say.—Sept. 12th.
Ammophila pruinosa, Cr.—Sept. 11th.
Crabro abdominalis, Fox.—Sept. 12th.
Paratiphia albilabris, Lep.—Aug. 16th.

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