Bees Whose Bite is Worse Than Their Sting   Leave a comment


Felipe del Bosque Blog June 19th 2011

More of the Same

The weather continues to stay settled with bright, dry days and a little rain at night.  We are experiencing an occasional daytime shower but nothing like the torrential rains from the beginning of the rainy season.  Hopefully things will continue in this fashion until September when we will be expecting heavier rain of longer duration.

For the moment, all unstable vegetation seems to have already fallen.  That is not to say there will be no further tree falls over the coming months, but there have been no more large trees bite the dust, (that should be, wet forest floor), over the past week.

A team of experts were called in to cut up those unfortunate trees that were standing in the path of the giant Milky Tree that fell last week.  Even though the Milky Tree itself had little value in terms of lumber, the others did.  They were cut up in situ and the planking was then taken to be stored in the wood yard for future construction projects.

Counting By Numbers

People who study ants are known as myrmecologists and there are not too many of them.  Most of the visitors to the forests that encompass Bosque del Cabo did not realize before they arrived that they would be leaving having become enamored by the fascinating world of ants.  For those ant fans out there, at the moment, the ants are out in force.  During the dry season it is not always easy to view the flowing green rivers of freshly cut leaf being carried by none other than the Leaf-cutter Ants.  During the dry season they tend to work at transporting the leaf material back to the nest after the sun has set.  But now, when there is a break in the rain, any of the trails at Bosque will provide you with ample opportunity to marvel at this incredible spectacle.

Another type of ant, whose presence can be equally as obvious, is the Army Ant.  There are several different species of Army Ant in the area and to the untrained eye they may look to be one and the same.  Whether they are larger or smaller, they have the same characteristic habit of moving in a congested column and always with purpose.  Unlike the Leaf-cutter Ants which are mycovores, (fungus eaters), the Army Ants are strictly carnivores.  Over the past week, I have been able to show people the feeder columns heading back to the bivouac, (they don’t have an established nest, they are nomads).  With close scrutiny you can see a huge amount of dismembered arthropods being taken into the bivouac to feed the larvae.  On occasion we will happen across a foraging front over 60 feet across, moving across the forest floor and dispatching anything small enough that did not have time to move out of the way.

The Comfort Zone

On the site of the “Killer Wasp” attack from a few weeks ago, we now have a new resident, something a little more tranquil by nature, a female Long-billed Hummingbird.  She has chosen the underside of a leaf from a palm just to the side of the kitchen, behind the reception, to build her nest.  The nest is still under construction.  If you look closely you will see the strands of spider silk she has used to fix the nest to the leaf.  Following the addition of each new piece, the female then sits inside to try it out, with the bill facing the underside of the leaf.  She appears to be in a most uncomfortable looking position but it is how she will stay while incubating the eggs.  Hopefully I will get more photographs as the nest is completed.  There have been Long-billed Hummingbird nests in the same area, different leaves, in the past.  Their proximity to a busy human though fare does not appear to deter them.

Long-billed Hummingbird Nest

What Katydid

On one of the nightly “Sunset Tours” this week, I saw an unusual looking Katydid sitting on a leaf of the Calabash Trees.  There is nothing unusual about seeing an unusual looking Katydid as many of them display strange morphological characteristics.  There are a great many Katydids that have evolved to resemble various plant parts.  The Pseudoleaf Katydids in particular are intriguing creatures.  This one resembled nothing I had ever seen before.  The wings were raised up above its back which brought to mind the prehistoric Dimetrodon.  The color of the katydid was a mix of cryptic browns and grays that I can only imagine would blend in with the background color of the tree bark.

Katydid       Katydid       Katydid

Katydid

Philip is a biologist, writer and photographer as well as the onsite naturalist guide at Bosque del Cabo Rainforest lodge on the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica.

www.bosquedelcabo.com

 Photo Feature

Blooming Orchids and Stingless Bees

Over recent weeks, while taking guests out on tour through the primary forest, I noticed an orchid that had been growing on the side of a tree for many years had started to produce flower buds.  This particular orchid had flowered every year and this year I kept a watch for bud development as I knew that the flowers would soon follow.  Over the course of a few days the flower buds lengthened and then on this day as I walked past, there were the flowers.  So after lunch it was back on the same trail with camera to get the images.

Stanhopea cirrhata

The orchid is a Tendril Stanhopea, (Stanhopea cirrhata).  It is a Neotropical orchid of which there are 55 species, 3 occurring in Costa Rica, but only one on the Osa Peninsula.  Stanhopea orchids are normally found in cooler climes, but Stanhopea cirrhata prefers growing exactly where this one is; in tropical lowland wet forest, low down on a branch in a less sunny location and close to the creek.  The flowers occur as a pair and give off a very sweet fragrance which not surprisingly attracts in male Orchid Bees, which are the plants main pollinators.  When I arrived to take the photograph, there was an Orchid Bee hovering in front but it did not wait for me to capture its image for later identification.

Stanhopea cirrhata

There had been some other bees that I had taken a mental note to return and photograph on the same trail as the orchids.  A few weeks previous I saw a swarm of brilliant orange/yellow bees gathering on plant leaves, close to the ground, at the base of a Milky Tree.  Following their appearance, over the course a week or so, a long waxy tube started to form from a crevice in the tree.  The tube was reddy orange in color, and extended 6 inches or more horizontally from the tree trunk.  These were one of the species of Stingless Bees, (Tetragonisca angustula).  The color of the tube depends upon the type of flowers that the bees have visited.  Incorporated into the wax you may also find mud and plant fibres.

They may be stingless but they can certainly bite and hard too.  They are renowned for their tenacity, swarming on mass into the mouths, ears and nose of those who antagonized them.  Some species as they bite release caustic secretions which burn.

Stingless Bees

Before the introduction of the European Honey Bee, Stingless Bees were the main source of honey for the indigenous peoples of Costa Rica and many of them still prefer Stingless Bee honey.  The honey itself has been clinically proved to have an antibiotic property.  You have to be careful which bees you are using though as some of them make a honey poisonous to humans.

Text and Photographs are taken from the forthcoming book:

The Natural History of Bosque del Cabo by Philip Davison

Temperature and Rainfall

Average Daily Temp High 83°F.  Average Daily Temp Low 74°F.

Average Daily Rainfall 0.33 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 2.28 ins

Average Daily Temp High 27.9°C.  Average Daily Temp Low 23.1°C.

Average Daily Rainfall 8.3 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 57.9 mm

Species List for the Week

Mammals

  • Howler Monkey
  • Spider Monkey
  • Capuchin Monkey
  • Red-tailed Squirrel
  • Agouti

Birds

  • Orange-chinned Parakeets
  • Red-lored Amazon
  • Scarlet Macaw
  • Great Currasow
  • Crested Caracara
  • Mangrove Black Hawk
  • Roadside Hawk
  • Yellow-headed Caracara
  • Common Paureque
  • Lineated Woodpecker
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Chestnut-backed Antbird
  • Wedge-billed Woodcreeper
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • White-tipped Dove
  • Rufus Piha
  • Rufus-tailed Hummingbird
  • Red-capped Manakin
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
  • Great Tinamou
  • Little Tinamou
  • Bright-rumped Atilla
  • Masked Tityra
  • Black-throated Trogon
  • House Wren
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture

Reptiles

  • Barred Ameiva
  • Four-lined Ameiva
  • Golfo Dulce Anolis
  • Pug-nosed Anole
  • Clawless Gecko
  • Mediterranean House Gecko
  • Cat-eyed Snake
  • Litter Snake
  • Salmon-bellied Racer

Amphibians

  • Marine Toad
  • Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
  • Banana Frog
  • Masked Smilisca
  • Milky Frog
  • Small-headed Frog
  • Smokey Jungle Frog
  • Black and Green Poison Arrow Frog
  • Golfo Dulce Poison Arrow Frog
  • Fitzinger’s Rain Frog
  • Tink Frog

Butterflies

  • Adelpha cytherea
  • Caligo eurilochus
  • Chioides albofasciata
  • Colobura dirce
  • Corticea corticea
  • Cupido comyntas
  • Detritivora gynaea
  • Dryas iulia
  • Euphyes vestries
  • Eurybia lycisca
  • Heliconius cydno
  • Heliconius erato
  • Heliconius hecale
  • Heliconius ismenius
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Heraclides cresphontes
  • Hermeuptychia hermes
  • Junonia everete
  • Morpho helenor
  • Morpho menelaus
  • Pareuptychia ocirrhoe
  • Parides erithalion
  • Pierlla helvina
  • Pierella luna
  • Pseudolycaena damo
  • Pyrgus oileus
  • Pyrisitia nise
  • Siproeta stelenes
  • Urbanus simplicius

 Plants

  • Astrocaryum Palm Fruiting
  • Black Alligator Tree Flowering and Fruiting
  • Calabash flowering and fruiting
  • Cedrillo Fruiting
  • Clusia Vine Fruiting
  • Devil’s Little Hat Fruiting
  • Dinner on a Plate Fruiting
  • Monkey Comb Tree Flowering and Fruiting
  • Candlestick Plant Flowering and Flowering.
  • Cannonball Tree Flowering
  • Figs Fruiting
  • Inga Fruiting
  • May Tree Fruiting
  • Manglillo Fruiting
  • Nutmeg Fruiting
  • Royal Palm Fruiting
  • Santa Maria Flowering and Fruiting
  • Stanhopea Orchid Flowering
  • Stinky Toe Fruiting
  • Ylang ylang Flowering
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