The Orchid Bees
The euglossine bees caught researchers´ attention by 1950, when it was found that only males visited the orchid flowers, collecting aromatic substances.
Nowadays, it is known that they collect aromatic substances not only from orchids but also collect compounds found in decomposing wood and certain artificial compounds. During collection, the male rubs the surface that contains the aromatic substance, using the hairs of the tarsi of the front legs. After that, the male transfers the substance, while it hovers, to the mid-legs and then to the scars located in the hind tibiae. The whole process lasts from a few seconds to many minutes. The goal of this behavior isn't fully understood, although it is believed to be related to the reproduction of those bees, as these compounds appear to be precursors to sex pheromones.
In the 70's artificial aromatic substances were discovered to attract males of Euglossini. Some of these substances are similar to the ones found in the orchid flowers. It helped to greatly increase the number of specimens in museum collections and also the number of species known.
Within this tribe, there are five genera whose distribution is exclusively Neotropical. Eulaema, Euglossa and Eufriesea (= Euplusia) construct nests and provision them. Exaerete and Aglae parasitize nests of Eulaema and Eufriesea, respectively.
Another interesting aspect is the great number of differences between the tribe Euglossini and the three tribes most closely related to them (stinglees bees, honeybees and bumblebees). The integument of Euglossini is usually brilliant and metallic, their tongue is extremely long, their flight is far and fast.
Much research on environmental degradation uses these bees as indicators, and the process of coevolution involved in the relation of Euglossini to orchids has made these bees effective pollinators of these plants, with great importance for the dispersal of pollen between isolated and distant populations.
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