Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

FNZ 57 - Apoidea (Insecta: Hymenoptera) - Methods

Donovan, BJ 2007. Apoidea (Insecta: Hymenoptera). Fauna of New Zealand 57, 295 pages.
( ISSN 0111-5383 (print), ; no. 57. ISBN 978-0-478-09389-6 (print), ). Published 07 Sep 2007


Since 1953 up to a dozen beehives have been managed annually by me for honey production, and until early 1959 the summers were spent working for a commercial beekeeper near Taumarunui, TO. During these years information on many aspects of the biology of honey bees and the apicultural industry in general was accumulated. From September 1966 to September 1969, various species of bees were studied at the University of California, Davis, as part of a Ph.D. in Entomology. My thesis was a revision of the bees of the subgenus Cnemidandrena (genus Andrena, family Andrenidae), during which many of the techniques used in this revision of the bees of New Zealand were acquired.

Apart from the years away from New Zealand, native bees were collected from late 1964, whenever there was an opportunity to do so. Native bees are on the wing only during mild to warm weather with little wind and are most abundant in sunny conditions, and most species are active only from about mid spring to early autumn. The majority of bees were taken on or over flowers or nest sites with sweepnets, but a small number were tubed directly on flowers or were captured in excavated nests. The largest sustained collection was of 690 females and 805 males, which were captured in emergence traps on a nest site at Island Bay Road, Birkdale AK, from late September 1965 to early January 1966. Each collected specimen was killed in KCN and pinned, and labels were affixed to each pin with the location, the date, the name of the collector, and the name of the flower (if any) with which the collection was associated. A significant number of bees were also collected by my colleagues at the Canterbury Agriculture and Science Centre, Lincoln, Dr. R. P. Macfarlane, Mr. P. E. C. Read, and Mrs. R. P. Read (nee Griffin).

During this same period, notes were taken on the activity of bees at nest sites, the characteristics of nest sites, and the timing of bee activity both seasonally and temporally. Bee parasitoids were collected both on nest sites and in the field. Trap nests for Hylaeus spp. were placed in the field at Halswell and Lincoln, MC, and near Abut Head, WD, and periodically nests were examined for details of construction, aspects of the bees’ life cycle, and the occurrence of parasitoids.

From September 1966 to September 1969, the lucerne leafcutting bee Megachile rotundata, and the alkali bee Nomia melanderi were studied in California and Utah, U.S.A., and during the 1970s both species were imported and established in New Zealand. In California various species of bumble bees were captured in the field, and nests were raised under controlled conditions. Beginning in September 1995, the red clover mason bee Osmia coerulescens was imported to New Zealand and propagated.

From 1970, nest boxes for bumble bees were placed in the field at about a dozen sites near Blenheim, MB, Canterbury, MC, and the Mackenzie Basin, MK, from which records were obtained of the life cycles of the 4 species of bumble bees and their associated biota.

From 1970, bees were borrowed from collections wherever they were known to be held. The majority were lent by the Otago Museum and were collected by Mr. A. Harris, while Mr. P. Quinn collected many bees in and around the Mackenzie Basin, MK. All types of New Zealand endemic bees, all of which are held in the British Museum (Natural History) were lent to me 2–3 at a time. The collections which lent me their bees (with abbreviations based on those of Watt (1979) and updated were:

AMNZ Auckland War Memorial Museum, Auckland, New Zealand.
BMNH British Museum (Natural History), London, U.K.
CGNZ Dr Chris Green, Henderson, Auckland, New Zealand.
CMNZ Canterbury Museum, Christchurch, New Zealand.
FRNZ Forest Research Institute, Rotorua, New Zealand.
LCNZ Lincoln University, Canterbury, New Zealand.
NMNZ Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand.
NMVA Museum of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia.
NZAC New Zealand Arthropod Collection, Landcare Research, Auckland, New Zealand.
OMNZ Otago Museum, Dunedin, New Zealand.
PANZ MAF N.Z. Plant Protection Centre, Auckland, New Zealand.
PCNZ National Plant Pest Reference Laboratory, Lincoln, New Zealand.
USNM United States National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., U.S.A.
UQBA Department of Entomology, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.
VUNZ Zoology Department, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.
WAMP Western Australia Museum, Perth, Western Australia.
WMNZ Whangarei Museum, Whangarei, New Zealand.

The great majority of borrowed bees were pinned, but those stored in alcohol were pinned by me to dry, because fluids obscure the diagnostic features of the vestiture. Many hundreds of pins that were corroding were replaced. All bees were sorted to species, and all details on labels were recorded on data sheets. In addition, whether females were carrying pollen, and the number of mites on each bee were also recorded.

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