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Stylopised: Entomology; (of a bee or other insect) parasitised by a stylops (Oxford Dictionary).

200406 Stylopised Andrena bee (1)

As with most tales about parasites, this one is both extremely fascinating and more than a little revolting. My photos here show a mining bee, one of the Andrena species, possibly Andrena scotica (thanks to local entomologist Liam Olds for that identification). The bee has been stylopised – the two small orange-ish bumps protruding from its abdomen are parasites, females of the Stylops family of Twisted-wing flies (though, due to the strangeness of these insects, there is some dispute about whether they’re really part of the fly family at all). Though the male flies do hatch and fly around, the females spend their entire life inside their host – the males inseminate them in situ and the females lay their eggs inside their host. Once the eggs have hatched into grubs, those grubs leave the host and wait on a leaf or flower for an unsuspecting bee to arrive, climb aboard and burrow into the bee, and the cycle begins again.

200406 Stylopised Andrena bee (2)

I had never heard of these Stylops parasites until I saw an incredible close-up image of them on Twitter last week, and then just happened to photograph them myself while out walking on Saturday. If you’re on Twitter, Ed Phillips’ amazing photo can be seen here  and you can read more about Stylops on the Royal Entomological Society’s website.