La bourgade

La bourgade

Last week I saw the Ivy bee Colletes hederae foraging in the ivy.  It is a beautiful bee and special, as it arrives as the ivy flowers.  It was thought that it only uses ivy pollen to put down as food for its young but research has shown that it can use other sources of pollen.  It nests often in large colonies and BWARS tells us that C. hederae often occurs in large nesting concentrations in soft, crumbly banks and cliffs.


We were out walking not far from home and I was trying to think of places nearby that might provide suitable nesting places when I nearly stood on one!

It was an amazing site.  For one thing the noise alerted me (I am quite well-tuned in for listening out for buzzing) but the number of bees brought me to a standstill.  My husband has now paced the nesting place and it is approximately 15 metres by 2 metres.  Some of the nests went into the green area too.


This is a candid portrait taken be a bored husband as I spent a long time photographing and observing the bees.  The one thing I cannot share is the activity that was going on.  I prefer the name used in French – bourgade (literally little village) – as nesting place just does not convey the movement, the activity, the dramas being played out at your feet.

Males search

The noise makers were the males.  Swarms of them searching for a female.

Group of males

They are constantly in motion and seem to observe the other males, worried that they might spot a female first.

Shove off

It’s a frenzied search with the male bees descending into the holes from time to time just to see if a female is there.  Sometimes patience frays and there will be some pushing and head butting but the whole searching has a very random appearance.

Where did I make my hole

I saw one female who could not find her hole and was searching around.

He's behind you

I was surprised she did not find it immediately but it could have got covered in leaves while she was gathering pollen.

Attack 1

Then bang!

Attack 2

I had more sympathy for her.

Attack 3

With all the male bees around she had to get to that nest quickly but she was too slow this time.  I presume she had already mated at least once and this would be losing good egg laying and pollen gathering time.  She was not interested in mating and wanted to get back to looking for her hole.

Down hole

The other females I saw were quicker off their mark to find their nests.

Female emerging

This female left her nest swiftly leaving a hopeful male standing.

Viewing them head on, the females have a darker face, without the attractive tawny tufts of the males.

I have kept my eyes open in the hope of finding other bourgades but this is the only one I have found.  At least next year I should be off to a good start as I can re-visit this one and who knows?  I may find another one if I start looking a bit earlier.



Some cuckoo bees

Some cuckoo bees

Melecta alb


Just as the cuckoo lays its eggs to be hatched in another birds nest, cuckoo bees lay their eggs in other bees nests.  The story continues in a similar manner with the larval cuckoo bee consuming the host egg/larva and the food supply laid down for its growth by the host bee.

Melecta alb


I had read about the cuckoo bees but had not seen any until this year.  That changed at the end of May this year when I noticed a Melecta albifrons on the Nepeta in the garden.  The Nepeta is still flowering and attracting bees even in late September and at the beginning of the year it attracts plenty of Anthophora.  M. albifrons is a parasite of Anthophora plumipes but I have never seen any Melecta near their nests in our stone walls.  There is also a possibility that these are Melecta lucosa which parasitise other Anthophora but I cannot differentiate between them from the photographs.  I am surprised that I have not seen more Melecta as I often watch the different Anthophora in the Nepeta and the Lavender when it is in bloom.


It was in the lavender in the garden at the beginning of July that I spotted the next cuckoo.  I have only the genus here – Thyreus, as there are several species in France.

Thyreus hist...

It looks similar to images of Thyreus histrionicus that I have seen.


This year I have been looking at the bees on the Common Fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica) and at the end of September I saw another Thyreus.


They are quite large bees but fast movers so I did not get as many shots as I would have liked.  It looked very similar to the bee I had seen earlier in the year but I cannot comment on the species.  These flowers are visited by Megachiles so they would provide a good meeting place as well as a nectar feed.

Strange bee

I’d really like to be able to identify the bees to species level but this is not usually possible from a shot on a flower but it is usually possible to find the genus.  However, the above image taken on the 15 September 2014 has me stumped.

It may be a Thyreus but I cannot find any similar on the web.  I can find little information on the hosts, probably generally the Anthophorini.  We have Amegilla here in the summer which is a possible host but it may also use the Anthophora.



As soon as I saw this shape I knew it was unmistakeably, Coelioxys, perhaps Coelioxys elongata. These bees are related to the Megachiles whose nests they will lay their eggs in.  They will also use nests of the Anthophora such as Anthophora furcata which nests in wood like the Megachiles.

Coelioxys 1 (1)

Watching the Common Fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica) has proved a very interesting exercise and I found more species than I had expected.  They attract a great variety of bees and it has helped to push my IDs to over twenty now.