Staff Pollinator Pick #2: Sunflower Bee (Svastra obliqua)
Named for its penchant for frequenting sunflowers, female bees of this species appear to prefer to collect pollen from sunflowers and other fall-blooming plants in the family Asteraceae. Although the common name, sunflower bee, can be applied to a number of fall-flying bees, I find this robust, large species particularly striking. I’m also fascinated by its nesting biology. Though females of this species each create and provision their own nest underground, they may nest communally, with multiple females sharing a single nest entrance. Aggregations of burrow openings are also common, especially in expanses of bare ground. To encourage these sunflower bees, grow sunflowers, asters, ironweed, and other fall-blooming plants, and conserve existing patches of bare ground by avoiding major disturbances to the soil and barriers such as plastic mulch.