The taxonomy of the bee genus Megachile (Hymenoptera: Apoidea: Megachilidae) of Israel

The Mediterranean basin is a world 'hot spot' for bees, where they are main pollinators and therefore an important component of the ecosystem. Some megachiline bees are major pollinators of wild plants in Israel while others are commonly used as pollinators of crops in western countries. The vast genus Megachile is distributed worldwide and represents a great morphological diversity with about 1100 described species, the phylogenetic relationships of which are not yet clear. About 40 megachiline species are known from Israel including new, previously undescribed species. Three large species groups have been identified within the genus based on females' mandible structure and nesting behavior: (1) Megachile: leaf-cutting species; (2) Chalicodoma: mud or resin nest masons; (3) Creightonella: species that combine various materials to construct their nests. Nevertheless, different species represent intermediate characteristics and make the determination of higher taxonomic ranks problematic. The lack of knowledge about the taxonomy of megachilines in the Middle East has no doubt contributed to the ambiguous taxonomy of the genus as a whole. The present study explores the diversity of the genus Megachile in Israel using comparative morphological taxonomy. The study will develop tools for the identification of Israeli megachilines, including the description of previously undescribed species.