Anthophora plumipes

I have chosen Anthophora plumipes as my first “bee” post.  I feel he was the one that started it all.  It was a he.

Male Anthophora plumipes in house wall

Male Anthophora plumipes in house wall

My knowledge was such that I did not even recognise him as a bee.  My husband noticed something staring out of a hole in between the stones in the wall of our house.  It looked like an insect.  I posted a photograph on iSpot and “Eucera” came back with the identification – Anthophora plumipes, male.  I thought it was an amazing ID – he even knew the sex and only had a shot of the head to go on!

So it was the spring of 2011 that I realised that there were many more bees than honey bees and bumble bees and I started to see more both inside and outside of the garden.

Anthophora plumipes female explores wall

Anthophora plumipes female explores wall

This spring I was ready for them.  I had worked out by now that the males were guarding the holes waiting for the females to come.  I wanted to watch the females build their nests.

There was plenty of activity around the wall but the give away sign was the accumulation of stone powder caught on a cobweb strung across a plant beside the wall.  I soon found the hole the powder was coming from and watched the female enter and heard her activity and buzzing as she excavated her nest.  I enjoyed the privilege of knowing where her nest site was and watching her coming and going.  The entrance was not clearly visible but there are other nests in the wall where the entrance is more obvious.  These are given away by the dusting of grit that lines them like a little path leading to the nest.

Anthophora plumipes female

Anthophora plumipes female

I had never been terrible keen on Cerinthe and these ones had self-seeded and flourished very well this spring.

Anthophora plumipes in Cerinthe flower

Anthophora plumipes in Cerinthe flower

I will cherish the seedlings this year as they were the favourite flowers of the Anthophora in March.

Fast flying Anthophora

Fast flying Anthophora

The Anthophora fly very quickly and do not stay on the flower for a long time.

Anthophora alighting on Cerinthe

Anthophora alighting on Cerinthe

There is no necessity for me to post so many photographs of the Anthophora on the Cerinthe.  My only excuse is that I found them totally delightful.

Hair raising wind on the rear abdomen

Hair raising wind on the rear abdomen

Not a good photograph but one that illustrates how fluffy these bees are.

I was delighted with my identification until I acquired the excellent book “Bees of Surrey” by David W. Baldock.  His photographs of the A. plumipes females show them as all black.  My females were grey.

Anthophora plumipes male

Anthophora plumipes male

The hunt was on to get a good picture of the males, not an easy task as they are very fast flying.  The sprouts had gone to seed in the back garden and I finally captured the male who modelled his beautiful long fronds of black hair against the the yellow flowers of the sprouts.

Anthophora plumipes on sprout flowers

Anthophora plumipes on sprout flowers

My males are A. plumipes but are grey like the females and not brown haired like their relations in the UK.

Damp A. plumipes

Damp A. plumipes

The problem with being a spring flying bee is that spring showers can arrive quickly and temperatures drop rapidly.  I found this poor bee, damp and clutching on to a Cerinthe flower.  It was still alive and I took the opportunity to photograph it quickly on a white piece of paper.  It soon warmed up inside and was happy to fly away again when the sun returned.  A lot of the bees were sporting the yellow patch on the top of their thorax where the pollen of the Cerinthe had adhered.

I would like to construct a white box as one of my winter projects to see if I can improve my close-up photographs of the bees which until now I have only tried on a sheet of white paper.

A.plumipes female on Muscari

I saw a group of them in May nectaring on Muscari comosum by the side of the road.  They were the same colouration as the ones in my garden.

Male A.plumipes on Muscari comosum

The photograph is not top quality but the hairy legs are a give-away – a male Anthophora plumipes.

A.plumipes female on Muscari comosum

I presume his companion must be an A. plumipes female as I would imagine that they would hang around together, or do they?

I haven’t found a French book on solitary bees but I would be very grateful to hear about any.  In the meantime I rely on “Bees of Surrey” and some internet sites.  David Baldock does give some advice to the beginner on identification although he is presuming you are collecting them, which I haven’t done yet.  He suggests to aim to be able to identify 20 bees using an identification key.  His next suggestion is more difficult to follow.  You take your collection of 20 bees to someone who really knows about these things to verify your ID’s.  My aim is to try to ID the bees by watching and photographing them (I know this is not perfect but I did say try!).  I have managed to get a key for the identification of the Anthophora of Belgium and Northern France which has been a great help, however, I live in the South West of France but I am not complaining!

Please feel free to leave any comments.

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11 thoughts on “Anthophora plumipes

  1. This blog has started off really well. What a delightful bee. I am wondering if this is the bee I have found sleeping in the blooms of my dogwood tree? They are distinguished by their black and white coloration. One cold morning in spring 2012 ( the dogwood bloomed much better that year than this) I was delighted to discover a little black and white bee resting in several of the flowers. (I know they are bracts, but flowers just seems to fit nonetheless.)

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    • Here I cannot help you as the Anthophora plumipes that I have over here is definitely grey but it has a different colouration in the UK. I have seen them outside the garden in previous years but I thought they were grey bumble bees (you don’t get grey bumble bees). They are quite plump, fluffy bees.

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  2. Hello AFG/BiaFG,
    I found your blog a few days ago via The Belmont Rooster, just in time to catch this new venture. Well done to you, I say, for trying something on solitary bees. I got hooked on garden moths about 11 years ago, but over the last few years have been much keener on the wider insect fauna that crops up in any garden, and in particular trying to observe which plants are best for attracting which insects. Thanks for the mention of a guide book for solitary bees as well. Of course lots of the flowers we find work well for insects here may not do so well where you are and vice versa, but maybe a network of gardeners in different climates may be able to pool ideas. I’m envious you can have Cerinthe flowering in March – its months later here – its usually Pulmonaria, and Crocus tommasinianus time for us then, and I don’t usually see solitary bees until quite a bit later in the year – but maybe I’m just not observant enough!
    Best wishes
    Julian

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    • I’ve just visited your site and seen your amazing garden! I will be very interested in the plants and flowers you use. I think all the nectar producing plants will attract insects but as you say they may not be the same ones in different countries. I think the only ones I would have a problem with are acid loving plants that need a wet site but it is always fun to experiment. We have some amazing moths and butterflies here but they do not excite me as much as the bees. I can get much more information on bees and moths in the Charente through a very dedicated web site which I try to link up with for my area. Good luck trying to find more solitary bees next summer. Do you have a bee hotel for the Osmia?

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    • Bees are only around when it is warm and there are flowers so it is not a good time to see bees. I have seen a lot over the summer but I had no time to identify them so I hope to be able to spend more time on reading and ID now (well, that’s the plan :)). It also gives people time to consider planting flowers to attract them to their gardens or put up bee hotels for next spring.

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