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.
The noise makers were the males. Swarms of them searching for a female.
They are constantly in motion and seem to observe the other males, worried that they might spot a female first.
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.
I saw one female who could not find her hole and was searching around.
I was surprised she did not find it immediately but it could have got covered in leaves while she was gathering pollen.
I had more sympathy for her.
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.
The other females I saw were quicker off their mark to find their nests.
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.