Orchid bee collecting resin from copal tree in Peru

The Center for Amazon Community Ecology began studying the ecology of copal trees, its resin, and insects associated with it at the Jenaro Herrera research station in Peru in 2006. While our initial focus was on the weevils that prompted the formation of resin lumps on the trees, we began seeing that many stingless bees and sometimes wasps regularly visited fresh lumps to take away little bit of resin – presumably to help build their nests. I took the shot below of a green and gold Euglossa orchid bee hovering next to clump of resin. She would alternately land on the resin, dig a little bit out with her mandibles, shape it into a little ball with her front legs and then pass it back to her hind legs where it would stick to her corbicula – the little flat structures with hairs where they usually store pollen they collect from flowers. She would then back away and buzz in place – apparently to test the balance and weight of the resin on both legs. She would then go back to the lump and get some more. In five to ten minutes she seemed to have a full load and would fly away. Bees like to use resin for nest building because it is malleable when moist and hard and waterproof when dry. It may also provide some protection for the bees against harmful fungus and bacteria. See more photos and information about this research.

Green & gold Euglossa orchid bee collecting resin from copal tree in Peru. Photo by C. Plowden/CACE

Green & gold Euglossa orchid bee collecting resin from copal tree in Peru. Photo by C. Plowden/CACE

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