Golden Era

Journal of Animal Behavior Volume 6 (1916)


The September afternoon was bright and sultry, with a tem-

perature of perhaps 85°, as we trudged up a deep little valley

between heavily wooded hills, where a tiny brook ran away from

a spring. As we stepped over the stream, the hum and blurr

of swarming insects attracted us. There at the side of the

water was a swarm of Colletes bees, perhaps two hundred in

number, buzzing, flying, wheeling, dancing, weaving in and out,

all in a chosen spot a few inches above the pebbles at the water’s

edge, and in an area about two feet across. The excitement was

riotous, dancing and mating, dancing and mating. The males

were far in excess of the females, apparently in about the pro-

portion of three or four males to one female. The females were

not so active as the males, but sat down more often upon the

rocks as if in quiet and meek anticipation of attention. And

usually they rested only a few seconds before their mates ar-

rived, often from two to five males struggling together for the

possession of one female. I am not sure whether the female’s

deliberation was of psychological or physiological causes; mat-

ings were not seen to take place on the wing, but she was of

heavier build than the male and also was frequently laden with

pollen; this may have hindered her participation in the merry

dance. They were so intent upon their frolic that we could

pick them up easily with the forceps, and our presence scarcely

disturbed them; when we stepped into the very midst of the

swarm they scattered a little — of necessity — but returned and

concentrated on the same spot as soon as we removed ourselves.

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