Subject: Velvet Ant, Wingless Butterfly?
Location: Central Nebraska
September 8, 2015 7:08 am
A colleague of mine snapped this photo in a Central Nebraska field – not sure what it is. Shows some similarities to velvet ants – but I have never seen this species if it is one and I have never seen one this “hairy”. Someone else suggested that it may be a butterfly without wings – not sure how that would happen.
Signature: T. J. Walker

Wingless Male Bumblebee

Wingless Male Bumble Bee

Dear T.J.,
We didn’t have enough time to do any research this morning, and even posting took too much time.  We did manage to write the following to Eric Eaton:  “Hi Eric,  This looks like a wingless Hymenopteran, but it doesn’t look like any Velvet Ant I have seen.  Except for the antennae, it looks vaguely moth like.  Thoughts?  It is from Nebraska.  Daniel”

Wingless Male Bumbleb  Bee
It is a male bumble bee that may not have developed wings during the pupa stage.  Been getting a few reports of this in paper wasps, first one I’ve seen for a bumble bee.

So T.J., an identification isn’t enough for us.  We want to know how to tell a male Bumble Bee from a female, and we suspect the antennae play a big part.  We are curious if not having wings will prevent this male from mating because we know Bees mate in the air.  We believe, like the Luna Moth image we just posted, that your Bumble Bee will not produce progeny.  We want to know if the winglessness is a genetic mutation, the result of some trauma to the developing Bee, or something entirely unexpected.

Daniel, thanks.
Would not have gotten to that identification.  Don’t know if I have seen a gray and white bumblebee.
I have CC’d the photographer, Ben Wheeler.
Ben, see below.
T. J. Walker

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Location: Nebraska

One Response to Why is the Male Bumble Bee Wingless???

  1. Ray kay says:

    There is a paper about bees and substance abuse in which enforcer bees will tear the wings of the bee under the influence in an attempt to protect the hive. This could be related.

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