Satellite flies (Leucophora personata, Diptera : Anthomyiidae) and other dipteran parasites of the communal bee Andrena agilissima (Hymenoptera : Andrenidae) on the island of Elba, Italy

Carlo Polidori, B. Scanni, E. Scamoni, Manuela Giovanetti, F. Andrietti, Robert Paxton

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Solitary and presocial aculueate Hymenoptera are parasitized by a range of dipteran species in the families Axithomyiidae, Bombyliidae, Conopidae, Phoridae, and Sarcophagidae that are likely to impact on their hosts. We undertook a study over several years of a univoltine and communal bee, Andrena agilissima, and its main dipteran parasites, in particular the satellite fly Leucophora personata (Diptera: Anthomyiidae). Behavioural and ecological data were collected from one nesting aggregation of the host bee on the island of Elba, Italy, from 1993 to 2003, and from a foraging site of the bee, ca 5 km from the nesting aggregation. Other Diptera associated with A. agilissmia at the field site were the bee fly Bombylius fimbriatus (Bombyliidae), the conopid fly Zodion cinereum (Conopidae), and the scuttle fly Megaselia andrenae (Phoridae). The phenology of the Diptera broadly overlapped with that of their host across the season of activity (end of April and all of May). Diurnal activity patterns differed slightly; L. personata in particular was active at the host's nesting site before A. agilissima. Female satellite flies also showed a range of behaviours in gaining entry to a host nest. We summarize published data on this and other Leucophora species that parasitize Andrena host bees. Host bees returning to their nests occasionally undertook zig-zag flight manoeuvres if followed by a satellite fly that were generally successful in evading the fly. Satellite flies that entered a nest, presumably to oviposit, were less likely to remain therein if another host bee entered the same nest, suggesting that one advantage to communal nesting for this host is a reduction in brood cell parasitism by L. personata. We provide the first clear evidence for parasitism by a Zodion of any Andrena host. Both L. personata and M. andrenae concentrated their parasitic activities in the zone of the host nesting aggregation with highest nest densities. Three of the Diptera, L. personata, B. fimbriatus, and Z. cinereum, seemed to have extremely low rates of parasitism whilst that of M. andrenae appeared low. Though they have refined parasitic behaviour that allows them to gain entry into host nests (L. personata, B. fimbriatus, and M. andrenae) or to parasitize adults (Z. cinercum), these parasites seem not to impact upon the dynamics of the host A. agilissima at the nesting aggregation, and the host possesses traits to reduce parasitism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2745-2758
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Natural History
Issue number29
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Ecology


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