A bee un-making her nest.

In my last post I showed the some of the photographs I had taken of Anthidium Manicatum but I did not mention that she nests in my garden.  To be completely honest, the first time I saw her survey my old bee hotel I thought she was a wasp and ignored her!  Now I am a year older and wiser and I have found out that she is also called the Wool carder bee in English or Abeilles cotonnières in French.  this is because she collects the fibres from plants with furry leaves like  the different varietes of Stachys.   I have  Lychnis coronaria (Silene coronaria) growing in the garden and huge plants of common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) grow close by so there is no shortage of the basic raw materials for her nest.

I have seen delightful pictures of female Anthidiums bringing round bales of cotton for their nests but I have never seen them cropping the leaves, myself.

Anthidium nesting 11.8.13

Anthidium nesting 11.8.13

I did see that an Anthidium was building her nest in my old bee house under the lilac tree in the middle of August, so I tried to keep an eye on it.



I was rewarded on the 29 of August when I saw a female Anthidium fly into the bee hotel.

Anthidium at nest

She apparently was making her nest.

I was really excited to watch her build her nest!  She seemed to want to do some re-arranging first.

Anthidium with cotton ball

She had gripped a ball of the cotton material between her legs as I had seen before in photographs but in those photographs she was taking the cotton to her nest.  Here she was taking it out.

Anthidium at nest

After recklessly dropping the cotton she came back for more.

Anthidium at nest

She repeatedly returned and went deep into the hole to unearth more of the cotton.

Anthidium at nest

She heaved some of the materiel out with kicks from her back legs.

Anthidium at nest

Sometimes she baled it together and counterbalanced her weight against it to pull it out of the bamboo.  These are a sample of the photographs I took in sequence over a period of ten minutes and I marvelled at the quantity of cotton she was removing and I thought of the time and energy it must have taken her to gather it.

Intruder at Anthidium nest

Intruder at Anthidium nest

All of a sudden I was startled by a bright orange creature wriggling rapidly out of the Anthidium’s nest.

Intruder from Anthidium nest

I apologise for the poor pictures but I was already having difficulty with poor light as the nest is under a lilac tree and the creature was moving rapidly.  It was not alone and I briefly saw another one appear and then disappear.

Anthidium at nest

My sympathies are with the Anthidium who continued with her purge of the nest material.  I was not prepared for the deluge of nesting material, and as the cotton fell it was being dispersed by the wind.  I would have loved to have gathered the contents to find out just how much she had packed in.  It seemed an impossibly large volume to extract from the bamboo tube.

Unfortunately, it is an unfinished story as I do not know what these creatures were.  Were they parasites?  Were they chance visitors to the bee hotel?  Perhaps someone can help me here.

Anthidium at bee hotel

Earlier the same day I had seen an Anthidium exploring one of my new bee hotels so hopefully there will still be plently of Anthidiums in the garden this year.

I need to add a post script here.  It is now November 2017 but because of a kind comment my Anthidium has been identified as Anthidium septemspinosum and the larva as a species of Dermestidae or carpet beetle.  I can now see my bee has black legs whereas I have other Anthidium in the garden which have much more yellow on their legs so possibly manicatum.  I cannot do better than that as I cannot find a key to help identify the different types of Anthidium.  Perhaps the French names Anthidie à manchettes should have alerted me to their legs.


I took this photo of a male in 2013 and the yellow colouration can be seen under the lovely down he has on his legs.


8 thoughts on “A bee un-making her nest.

  1. I started looking for Lotus corniculatus as soon as I became interested in bees, however, I found very little around here. Now, this summer, after two very wet springs I have noticed much more but I was not lucky in my search for bees on it. I have been looking through my photographs but I do not think any are A. oblongatum. I am not sure about the Anthidiellum strigatum as I have something different on Lavender. I will be looking more carefully at the Anthidium next summer. Amelia


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