Natural History

Cactus Bee

posted: 06/03/13
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Cactus Bee | Photo Caption: Excerpted from North America: A World in One Continent by Huw Cordey
Greg Wood/Staff/Getty Images

The cacti flower for just one month, and this is the cue for the American cactus bee to breed. Thousands of bees gather at sites close to the cactus flower, where up to fifty male bees fight over access to one female, forming angry balls of mating bees. Once they have mated, the females dig nesting holes in the ground. Using their heads to jackhammer through the soil, they make a hole four to ten inches (10 to 25 cm) deep, in which they carve out ten to twelve cells. In each cell, they place a lump of pollen mixed with nectar, before laying an egg and sealing the cell. When finished, they will seal the whole nest.

The job completed, the exhausted female bees will die. Just two weeks later, the young bees will hatch, the fastest journey time from egg to adult of any known bee.

EXPLORE THE DESERTS: Coyote | California Condor | Mustang | Roadrunner | Harris Hawk | Spadefoot Toad | Fringe-Toed Lizard | Pygmy Rabbit | Cactus Bee | ALL NORTH AMERICAN ANIMALS

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