The possible purpose of the hairy mid legs of male Anthophora plumipes


The following observation was posted on the BWARS Forum by Nigel Jones on 29 April 2006:


I came across a female A. plumipes today. It flew in to a patch of Pulmonaria flowers, where males have been patrolling for some time. After landing it became very quiet and gripped the flower it landed on with it's mandibles. I was able to pick up the flower and photograph it, fully expecting it to fly off at any time. It did not. I replaced the female on to the main plant and it stayed there, clinging to its flower. The sun came out and it became much warmer, but the bee still did not move, appearing to be quite moribund. With the sun, came a male, who hovered behind her and did the usual quick dart toward the female, landing on her and quickly appearing to be repelled. This happened a few times, during which time a second, then a third male arrived. They all hovered behind her, almost taking turns to dart at her and getting rejected. Eventually, one of them decided to try harder and grappled quiet hard with the female, but she again rejected the advance. At the next attempt though he was able to remain with her and appeared to copulate. Whilst this happened the other two males continued to dart at the mating female and male, but quickly darted away after each attempt. The copulating male kept his long-haired mid legs held up above himself as he mated. I wonder if this is a method for keeping at bay other males, as he mates? The copulation ended after about a minute at most and the female quickly took off and started to feed from flowers, not appearing at all moribund any longer. She had no signs of pollen on her hind tibia, so I assume she was ready for mating and was not rejecting advances,  because she was already fertilised.  Interestingly, I rarely see more than two males patrolling the patch of Pulmonaria, but the three males appeared quite quickly, once the sun came out

Above: Male A. plumipes with mid legs raised, possibly to fend off other attendant males.
Below: showing wider view of this scene.


Nigel Jones

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