A very early bee

A very early bee

Andrena 26.1.2016

We were out walking on Tuesday 26 January 2016, it was nearly five o’clock in the afternoon and I had not bothered to take my camera along.  Nevertheless, I can’t help keeping my eyes on dandelions, checking for bumble bees, but instead I spotted a solitary bee: an Andrena on a dandelion.  My husband came to my rescue and took a photograph for me.

I think it is an Andrena haemorrhoa – its common name being the Early Mining Bee but by early in the U.K. they mean you can see it usually starting in March.  I felt rather sorry for it as it was not moving but sheltering in the dandelion for warmth.

The exceptionally mild weather with temperatures peaking up to seventeen degrees centigrade with sunshine has obviously woken some wild bees from their winter dormancy.  Luckily the flowers are being fooled too but I hope she has enough strength to make it back to her tunnel.

In praise of Hebe

In praise of Hebe


I bought my white Hebe for 10 euros 25 in March 2014 to provide ground cover for a difficult dry, sunny patch in my front garden.

Honey bee

It has been money well spent as it flowered in the first year and is flowering again just now.

Fast bee

The honey bees make straight for it.  It is called véronique arbustive in French which sounds a much more charming name for such a beautiful plant.  It belongs to the Scrophulariaceae family of plants which contains many plants that the bees and other insects love for their high nectar content.

Bigger black bee

But it is not only the honey bees that are attracted to it.

Tiny black bee 2

There are lots of wild solitary bees that love it too.  Compare the sizes of the bees in the last two photographs with the size of the flowers.

Tiny black bee

These little black bees are so tiny that I’m sure some people must mistake them for flies.

Bee fly

It does attract the bee flies too.  This one is a particularly good bumble bee mimic and even buzzes like a bee.  They are, however, parasitic on solitary bees.  Their eggs need to hatch in the nest of a bee or other insect so that the larvae can feed on the larval stages of the host insect.

Shiny Halictes

This bee is particularly attractive as it is a shiny gold colour.  The little slit at the rear of the abdomen shows that it is in the family of Halictidae but I can’t go closer than that.

Peacock butterfly

Peacock butterfly (Inachis io)

The butterflies come for the nectar, too.

Lycaena top

This one is a copper.

Lycaena underside

Perhaps the Sooty Copper (Lycaena tityrus).

Yellow pollen

The honey bees don’t seem to bother with collecting the pollen from the flowers although I think the little bees are more patient and collect a cream pollen but the bee above has been visiting somewhere else to have collected all that yellow pollen.

Bumble on Dahlia

Strangely, I see very few bumble bees on the Hebe.  They much prefer the Dahlias that are growing all around it.

So, if you are looking for a plant that doesn’t cost a lot, provides lots of entertainment by attracting bees and butterflies and is easy to care for – I think Hebe ticks all the boxes.


Anthidium manicatum carding wool

Anthidium manicatum carding wool


I have some Stachys towards the bottom of the garden.

Not many people can resist stroking the soft furry leaves of Stachys.


But if you see patches on the stem or leaves that are lacking the hairs, it could be that you have an interesting bee in the neighbourhood.

Anthinium manicatum on stem

Yesterday in the garden I noticed this Anthidium manicatum, or wool carder bee making repeated visits to my Stachys.  She must have razor sharp mandibles as the stem is shaved in a firm downward movement.

Anthidium manicatum no hands

She has now collected her bale and is about to fly back to her nest.  I watched her arrive and it took less than a minute for her to roll up a ball of the soft fibres.  I don’t know where she has her nest but last Setember one nested in one of my bee houses and I described it in my other blog A French Garden.  Check out Mason bee hotels or houses to see where she nested.

Anthophora furcata

It was not only the Anthidium that was interested in the Stachys.

Anthophora furcata on Stachys

As I waited for the Anthidium to return, I noticed an Anthophora furcata.

Anthophora furcata on Stachys

Stachys looks and incredibly soft and welcoming plant for bees.


I shouldn’t forget the Carpenter who passed by too but she gets everywhere!

Andrena agilissima colony

Andrena agilissima colony

Last May I saw Andrena agillisima for the first time (See my blog Andrena agillisima).  Now I have discovered a nesting place at the bottom of my garden.


Some years ago a large Poplar tree fell down in a storm.  The tree was cut up and used for the fire in due course but the root was left as it had fallen in a part of the garden that was very overgrown at that time.  It has formed a very large well-drained mound and this year I spotted the holes and the Andrena agilissima.

However, despite seeing them flying too and fro, I have not been able to get a photograph very easily, as they do not hang about. However, my patience has been rewarded.

1.Andrena agilissima at entrance

I at last managed to get a shot of the black and white head surveying the world from the security of her burrow.

2.Antenna appears

Then I noticed another antenna appear.

3.Second antenna

Then a pair of antennas appeared.

5.Squeeze out

The second bee pushed herself under the first in her wish to exit the common hole.

6.Wings spread

I had not realised that the Andrena agillissima would share the entrance holes to the colony but inside she will build her own capsule for her egg to pass through the larval stages and overwinter as an adult.

The first bee only hesitated a few seconds before joining the second to search for flowers.  She shouldn’t have had far to go if she wanted to try my sprout plants which are flowering specially for her.  You can see her take flight in the slideshow below.

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Isn’t nature wonderful ???

Isn’t nature wonderful ???

O.cornuta emerges 19.3.15

The first male Osmia cornuta emerged on the 19 March.  Since then he has had to put up with dull, rainy days and colder than normal temperatures.  I know that the females emerge a few weeks later but he seems completely unaware of this and faithfully visits the holes where I presume he can smell the females, still comfortably tucked up in their cocoons.

IMG_8809.male O.cornuta resting (1)

The males also play out the waiting game sitting in any of the empty holes of the bee hotel, hoping for the sun to come out or better still for the females to emerge.

Anthophora aestivalis...

It’s not just the Osmia males that are in waiting but the Anthophora are waiting too.  (I think this may be an A. aestivalis because I’ve seen its legs and it is not a plumipes.)

2 male o. cornuta (1)

But with all that waiting I think some of them must get a bit confused.

2 male o. cornuta (2)

The male in the hole is desperately trying to explain he is not a female.

2 male o. cornuta (3)

Giving up in desperation he retreats.

2 male o. cornuta (4)

Then gathers his strength to be more assertive and push his way past.

O.cornuta female

Strangely, while all this, “Shuff off, I’m not a female” was going on, I noticed a black head emerging slowly from a hole not far beneath them.  It did make me wonder that if I had noticed and they had been waiting for it to happen for two weeks that they might have been a bit quicker on the uptake.

O.cornuta fem with male

Eventually, without me having to shout, “She’s behind you!”, one of them spotted her.

O.cornuta female emerges

The first Osmia cornuta female of the season emerged!

O.cornuta mating with 3

Having had two weeks to prepare for the big event, I was a bit disappointed with what followed.  I just couldn’t see this position as efficient for increasing the population of solitary bees.  They tried the threesome, never the less, until the top one gave up.

O.cornuta male waiting on side lines

The second male moved off to watch the proceedings from the side lines.

O.cornuta getting suck in the hole

I felt the female was getting pretty fed up and then she made a clever manoeuvre towards a free hole.

O.cornuta getting suck in the hole (1)

This did not deter the determined male who hung on regardless.

O.cornuta getting suck in the hole (2)

The female managed to squash both of them into a stalemate, whereupon the male gave up.

O.cornuta female shakes free

Having shaken off her admirer the female emerged onto the surface of the log to take stock of her position.

O.cornuta female warns off male

A male tried to take advantage of her but was warned off with a defensive position and mandibles wide open in warning.

O.cornuta female grooms

With a few butt wiggles and a quick groom the female took off.  She will soon enough be mated and I am sure return to start her own nests.

The males that I have seen patrolling the bee hotel with impatience will have to get their technique improved if they hope to pass their genes to the future generation.  So far I would rate them at 10/10 for winter survival, spring survival and persistence but they are going to have to do better at their next attempt at copulating.

Osmia cornuta male

Osmia cornuta male


I was happily watching the bumble bees on the winter honeysuckle when I saw a much smaller bee that was not a bumble bee.


It was moving much quicker than the bumbles and much more difficult to get a picture of it.

Side eating 2

The problem is that when it sticks its head into the flower it covers up its most distinguishing feature.

Upside down Osmia

Even though he is upside down this photograph shows the white facial hairs of the Osmia cornuta male.  They are visible while he is flying but not so easy to catch for a photograph.

Osmia cornuta male

Sideways on you can see he is slimmer than the females which should be around in another few days.  The temperature has gone up to 21 degrees C in the garden today (8 March 2015) and it was the same temperature yesterday despite overnight lows approaching zero.

I’ve put my bee hotels out today and reminded my husband that he had promised to make me another one this year.

Male Andrena

Our big plum tree is just starting to flower and I saw what I think is a male Andrena on the flowers.


He has prominent mandibles and I wonder whether it could be an Andrena fulva male as I always see the females on my blackcurrant bushes every year.

Solitary bee season seems to have started suddenly now that the rain has stopped and the sun has reappeared.