Giant Metallic Orchid Bee (Exaerete frontalis)

Pricing: Dead (spread, as pictured): $65-$150 depending on size.
Geographic Range: Mexico to Argentina
View: Top View  Sex: Female
Size: Wingspan: up to 6 cm

Image Copyright 2003
Barbara Strnadova

Exaerete bees belong to a tribe of bees known as the Euglossini (Orchid Bees). The Exaerete are, without a doubt, the most spectacular of the Neotropical bees. They are characterized by their large size, metallic green coloration and very long tongues, which they use to extract nectar from flowers with long corollas (particularly orchids) and by their cleptoparasitic habits. There are five genera of Euglossini bees and while three of those genera (Euglossa, Eulaema, and Eufriesea) collect pollen and construct nests, the other two genera (Exaerete and Aglae) have evolved as cleptoparasites of Eulaema and Eufriesea. These cleptoparasites act as cuckoos, destroying the eggs of their preferred host and replacing them with their own eggs. Exaerete (pictured) is a genus comprised of 6 species while Aglae is a genus that contains only one species: Aglae caerulae. Females search out the nests of their preferred host and then kill the host's eggs (and possibly first instar larvae as well). There is also evidence that the developing cleptoparasitic larvae are capable of killing the eggs and young larvae of other cleptoparasites, should another cleptoparasitic female try and use the nest. Bees in the genus Exaerete have a broad geographic range and are found from Mexico to northern Argentina. The specimen pictured was collected in Peru.