Researchers with the Oklahoma Natural Heritage Inventory recently documented a rare species of bee, the morning glory longhorn, while conducting a survey at Cookson Wildlife Management Area. This is the first time the species has been documented in the state. Though generally thought to range east of the Great Plains, the bee was also documented in eastern Colorado in 2013.
“The bee is on the larger side, about the size of the first digit of your pinky finger,” said Mary Powley, research technician with the Oklahoma Natural Heritage Inventory. “The defining feature for the species is a distinctly shaped structure found just above the mandibles, but in general, this is a larger, more robust, and hairier bee species.”
Powley documented the bee in July while examining a patch of bigroot morning glory growing along a Cookson WMA roadside. The plant is known to host several specialist bees, or bees that provide their larvae with pollen from a strict set of plants. Her work was part of a larger effort by the Oklahoma Natural Heritage Inventory to document the state’s bee community.
As with many other states, Oklahoma does not yet have a published list of its pollinator or bee communities.
“We’re starting to get to the point where insect and pollinator conservation is deemed enough of a priority for there to be support for developing these types of lists,” said James Hung, biologist with the Oklahoma Natural Heritage Inventory and Powley’s supervisor.