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Hylaeus agilis facts for kids

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Hylaeus agilis
Hylaeus agilis 5880409.jpg
Scientific classification
  • Prosopis laevigata Smith, 1854 (preoccupied)
  • Prosopis agilis Smith, 1876
  • Prosopis maorica Kirkaldy, 1909
  • Prosopis agilis laevigata Cockerell, 1916
  • Hylaeus agilis (Smith, 1876)

Hylaeus agilis, commonly known as the Agile masked bee, is a bee species in the family Colletidae. It is endemic to New Zealand. This species is found throughout the country and visits the flowers of a wide variety of plant species, both native and introduced.


This species was first described by Frederick Smith in 1876 under the name Prosopis agilis. The holotype specimen of this species is held at the Natural History Museum, London.


H. agilis are slender and mainly black in colour, with distinctive yellow or white markings on their face. They have sparse hairs and range in size from 7-9mm. Like all Hylaeus bees they lack pollen-carrying hairs (scopa), and resemble wasps.


H. agilis is endemic to New Zealand and found on the North, South and Stewart Islands as well as on Three Kings Island. H. agilis is predominantly located in vegetated areas from sea level to 1590m of elevation.


Hylaeus agilis 58262276
H. agilis regurgitating pollen

The female adults of this species are on the wing from October to May while the adult males of the species have been observed from October to April.

H. agilis pollinate red mistletoe (Peraxilla tetrapetala), an endangered mistletoe species endemic to New Zealand. This mistletoe species is explosive, meaning that requires forceful opening and was previously thought to only attract endemic birds evolved to twist the flowers open. However, H. agilis was observed continuously gnawing on unopened buds until they opened. Thus H. agilis is ecologically important for native New Zealand plants.

Because H. agilis has no specialized pollen-carrying structures on its body, pollen is carried in a crop. This internal pollen is regurgitated for larval food. Like most bee species endemic to New Zealand, they are solitary mining bees but instead of constructing or excavating their own nests, they live in blind tunnels in branches and twigs, or in abandoned beetle holes in logs.

Host species

This bee species has a wide variety of both native and introduced host species. Native species include Olearia angustifolia, Carmichaelia species, Peraxilla tetrapetala, Leptospermum scoparium, Metrosideros excelsa, Metrosideros robusta and Hebe salicifolia.

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