New Species of Orchid Bee Discovered

by johnsmith

Entomologists have described a new species of the neotropical orchid bee genus Eufriesea from the Islas Marías of Nayarit State, México in the Pacific.

Eufriesea insularis, female holotype. Image credit: Ayala et al., doi: 10.3897/jhr.92.87197.

Eufriesea is a genus of over 60 bee species in the tribe Euglossini, commonly known as orchid bees, euglossine bees or long-tongued bees.

These bees are readily recognized by their large, robust body with frequently metallic coloration that ranges from black to blue or green with yellow, reddish, or purple iridescence.

They play important role in pollination of orchids and many other plants. Males visit orchid flowers, among others, to collect essentials oils that are then carried and modified in their metatibiae, and which are presumably used to attract females.

Most Eufriesea species are active only during a few months in the rainy season.

Like all orchid bees, they are confined to the Neotropical region, most of which occur in South America.

The newly-discovered species is the first species of the genus known from an island in the Pacific Ocean.

Named Eufriesea insularis, it occurs on Isla Maria Madre, the largest island of Islas Marías — an archipelago consisting of four islands located 100 km from the coast of the state of Nayarit in México.

“This archipelago was designated as the Islas Marías Biosphere Reserve in 2010 by UNESCO and the Mexican Government, and it is currently under the protection of the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources of México,” said Dr. Ricardo Ayala from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and his colleagues.

“The vegetation on the Islas Marías islands is primarily tropical dry forest, but a good part of the island has scrub, while the denser and higher arboreal vegetation is concentrated in canyons.”

Eufriesea insularis belongs to the Eufriesea coerulescens species group.

“This species group consists of six species presumably restricted to México along tropical dry forests, as well as in pine and oak forests, from sea level to about 1,500 m in elevation,” the researchers said.

“Eufriesea coerulescens, the most widespread species of the group, has also been recorded from the Guadalupe Mountains of western Texas and southeastern New Mexico, the United States.”

Eufriesea insularis is recognized by its dark blue integument with purple iridescence, black pubescence, dark wings, and clypeus green with purple hues and a prominent elevated ridge along the midline.

It has a total body length 19.5 mm, a head wider than long (length – 5.4 mm, width – 6.6 mm), and a compound eye 4.6 mm long and 2.2 mm wide.

“Based on the time of collection, Eufriesea insularis appears to be active during the rainy season (July to November), and until the beginning of winter,” the scientists said.

“Admittedly, we have only two dates of collection but considering that two of the type specimens have heavily damaged wings we may presume that they began activity months prior, during the rainy season.”

“We hope this contribution encourages further studies to explore the biology and phylogeography of this unique insular pollinator.”

The discovery of Eufriesea insularis is reported in a paper in the Journal of Hymenoptera Research.


R. Ayala et al. 2022. The first Pacific insular orchid bee (Hymenoptera, Apidae): A new species of Eufriesea from the Islas Marías. Journal of Hymenoptera Research 92: 273-284; doi: 10.3897/jhr.92.87197

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