So here's this Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae, nectaring on a Mexican sunflower, Tithonia rotundifola.
It's National Pollinator Week. All's right with the world. The butterfly had visited a passionflower vine, Passiflora, its host plant.
Now for a little fuel. The nectar is enticing. The Gulf Frit flutters from flower to flower.
And then...it's targeted.
Get off my flower, that's mine! A very territorial male long-horned bee, Melissodes agilis, buzzes past, trying to dislodge the butterfly. Then another male appears. And another.
What's going on? Like frenzied kamikaze pilots, the males patrol the flowers, dive-bombing and dislodging any temporary tenants, in hopes of saving the nectar for the females of their species. And to mate with them.
After four attacks, the Gulf Frit decides the nectar is not worth it.
Author - Communications specialist
A male long-horned bee, a Melissodes agilis, targets a Gulf Fritillary on a Mexican sunflower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Coming in from a different direction, the male territorial longhorned bee targets the Gulf Fritillary occupying "his" flower, a Mexican sunflower. They're all "his" flowers. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Another line of attack! The male longhorned bee aims straight for the Gulf Fritillary. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)