Insect of the week: 28 August 2023

Seladonia cf. jucunda  (Hymenoptera: Apoidea: Halictidae)

Seladonia is a moderately large genus of mostly pollen-collecting bees. There are 65 species, found worldwide except in Australia which has but a single Seladonia species and that one is invasive. Recent molecular work on a widely distributed species of Seladonia (S. smaragdula) in the palearctic region has uncovered five cryptic species (identical to each other morphologically), so the number of species may increase greatly if this is a common phenomenon in the genus. Interestingly, some Seladonia species are eusocial, sharing nest space and workload with other conspecific individuals. All Afrotropical Seladonia are metallically coloured, sparkling in the sun in various hues of yellow, green and blue. Our insect of the week, Seladonia jucunda, must be the most beautiful of them all with its rich, golden reflections covering the entire bee. Well named, in Latin jucunda means happy or joyful. It certainly makes me feel that way.

Before we found S. jucunda only two Seladonia species were known from Kenya, one of which, Seladonia niveocinctula (=Seladonia chalybaeus), is a cleptoparasitoid, stealing the pollen stores on which the larvae of a pollen-collecting bee are meant to feed. The other species, Seladonia lucidipennis is a pollen-collecting bee. Our bee, Seladonia jucunda, had not been recorded from Kenya, though it is widespread in Africa, including records from Ethiopia, Egypt, Somalia, South Africa, etc., so it is no surprise that we found it in Kenya. It was collected in the Lambwe Valley very near the Ruma National Park. Like S. lucidipennis, S. jucunda is a pollen-collecting bee. Both species are generalists, having been recorded visiting flowers of 11 and 35 plant species respectively, including tomato, Orchidaceae, Capsicum, Ocimum and Ricinus.

Credits: Dr Robert Copeland