Colletes cunicularis, a mining bee

I am continuing my winter identification of the bees I have seen last year.  This will be the fifth bee I have identified.

Nest 10.3.13

Nest 10.3.13

I first saw the nest near one of the apple trees and I marked it with a stick so that I could keep an eye on it.

10.3.13

10.3.13

I was rewarded later when I caught site of a bee heavily laden with pollen.

10.3.13

10.3.13

These photographs are taken without  a Macro lens.

Droplet.10.3.13

Droplet.10.3.13

When the photographs are enlarged I could notice a droplet at the far end of her abdomen but the quality of the photograph is poor.

 20.3.13

20.3.13

I tried to check it as often as I could but although it remained open, I had no more luck in seeing my bee.

31.3.13

31.3.13

Then on 31 March when I looked into the hole it looked darker.

Eye appears.31.3.13

Eye appears.31.3.13

As I watched an eye appeared.

Hole enlarging

Hole enlarging

She appeared to be enlarging…

and enlarging

and enlarging

and enlarging the hole.

Emerging

Emerging

I became braver and tried to get a little closer as she seemed so absorbed in her work.

Densely pitted clypeus

Densely pitted clypeus

I had now bought my Macro lens and was able to get a better shot.

S shape on wing vein

S shape on wing vein

Colletes is the only genera with S-shaped second recurrent vein on the forewing so later I was able to identify the genus.

Approaching the surface

Approaching the surface

I watched her for 37 minutes, taking quite a few photographs.

Closed hole

Closed hole

It wasn’t until near the end that I realised she was, in fact, closing her hole.  Satisfied her work was complete, she flew away.

I kept watch on the hole but it was never disturbed and gradually disappeared under the vegetation that constitutes our lawn.

We have willows or I believe sallows (Salix caprea) that were flowering from the beginning of March last year and also a very large plum tree that started to flower mid March so I think she would have not have had to fly far for pollen.

The droplet on her rear abdomen intrigues me as the Colletes produce a cellophane-like material to line their nests and I wonder if this could ooze onto her abdomen.

 19.8.13

19.8.13

Another intrigue!  I found this layer of cellophane-like material adhering to the outside of a bee hotel in my front garden in August.

Cellophane hole 19.8.13

Cellophane hole 19.8.13

Close by a single hole had been sealed by what looked like the same material.  The photograph is poor as the surface was reflective and I was not able to show the shininess of the surface in my photographs.

Do any Colletes species nest in holes in wood?  Does another bee use this material to fill its holes?  I’d love to find out.

I’ll be keeping my eye on my bee hotel and also on the area that my Colletes has built her nest.  My sandy soil and willows might attract even more Colletes to nest in the garden.

8 thoughts on “Colletes cunicularis, a mining bee

    • I’ve done it now. I really don’t like doing it. I’ve only used iSpot if I see something in the UK. This is the first time in France, I read the Apoidea Gallica forum but they all seem such experts.

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  1. I’ve just checked it out. It’s a yahoo group which is one reason I hadn’t come across them before — I don’t get on with yahoo groups. I see that Nico Vereecken is one of the main people involved, so I would have no hesitation about asking your question. He is very expert, but also enthusiastic about encouraging new people and their interest in bees.

    Can you please delete my previous comment? I filled out the name field wrongly and it shows my email address which I don’t want the spam crawlers picking up.

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    • You were right, Susan (again)! I was a bit timid but I asked my question and they did not bite! I got two responses suggesting Hylaeus genus. I looked up David Baldock in “Bees of Surrey” on the Genus Hylaeus “…They nest mainly in dead woods (especially brambles) but also in crevices such as in holes in wood, stones or walls. The cells are made in a line and are waterproofed by a cellophane-like material.) I had read it but the brambles had stayed in my brain but not the rest. The forum also gave me a link to a Flikr photograph of a bee-hotel hole filled with a cellophane-like substance so it is perhaps a relatively common phenomena.

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  2. Hello A,
    A really good sequence of photos of the bee. Patience often pays off, doesn’t it. I must really get a good book so that I can gen up on the terminology…for example I’m a bit lost looking at the images trying to work out where the S shape in the vein is. Still, I look forward to seeing what other bees you’ve identified,
    BW,
    Julian

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    • I did want to add an arrow but I’m not sure how to. I haven’t got onto layering pictures and I’m using Picassa at the moment. I don’t process my photographs much, just crop and brighten them, if need be. It is another thing I want to learn about 🙂

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