Opuntia cactus

Cactus flowering

Took pictures of the flowering of various prickly pear (Opuntia sp.) near the house on April 17 and 19. Found all sorts of activity within the flowers; bees, beetles, maybe an aphid, a fly … A shout out to Margarethe Brummermann who wrote about the very same thing two years ago in her blog post and filled-in much of the information about my observations. Observations from a major Tucson naturalist! Both days I observed only one bee species, a greyish bee now identified as Diadasia sp. I noticed much buzzing around and some seemed to be chasing the others. They would dive right into the flower crawling among the stamens. Sometimes two or three would share the flower together and all sorts of activity would happen. I suspected mating going on. This was confirmed by Margarethe’s article. She mentions that the female would sometimes pose along the side for a few seconds and this was a signal that she was receptive and the male would dive bomb onto her. I actually captured this. A couple of days ago I looked at the blooms again and noticed a few Apis melliflora. They had a completely different set of behavior as they hovered like a helicopter over the flower and either landed to the side of the stamens or landed on the pistil and fed from there.

Found the Nitrituidae beetle Carpophilus sp. in most of the flowers. While trying to get a clear shot of this beetle I accidentally found two more different species in between the pedals. A second shot shows the same pair with a tiny fly. All together I believe I found four different species of beetles. In addition I got a good shot of what seems to be an aphid.

I dropped a flower in alcohol to study later. This morning I sorted the insects that fell out and found a banded wing thrip. Probably more still in the flower which I will find when I get around to dissecting it.


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