I found the bourgade on the 23 September and once I had found it I wanted to watch it more. I loved to see the females coming back loaded with pollen to disappear down their holes.
The males were still patrolling and checking out the holes for females but despite the warmth and the still sunny days, there was less activity from the males.
Not all the females made a “bee-line” for the correct hole. This female noticed her mistake and came out again.
Then came the hunt for her correct hole. Had she misplaced it or had the leaves covered it? We did take care to not stand on the path and destroy any of the openings to the holes.
I did notice that all the females were not exactly the same size and there were a few smaller ones that were not as vigorous.
This little female let herself be picked up and did not seem to be in a hurry to dig a hole or collect pollen.
I only saw the one cuckoo bee surveying the bourgade on my visits.
It was visiting the holes of the ivy bees but I found it very difficult to photograph as it folded its wings over its back when it was at rest on the ground. I had a good idea what it might be but I could not be sure.
So she had to be caught and taken home for a closer look.
From the rear.
And flying inside a capture jar.
I am reasonably certain that it is Epeolus fallax. This is not the only bee that will lay its eggs in the Colletes hederae nests and I have seen mention of Epeolus cruciger as another cuckoo bee.
One thing I noticed even a week after my first visit was that the mating was a continuous event.
The females can be pounced on by several males.
Here the female has struggled to the surface of the mating ball that will tumble randomly over the ground propelled by the force of the different participants.
The female, on the right hand side, has now got the upper hand and pushes free to take flight for a pollen search.
From accounts I had read I had imagined that this frenetic mating only took place as the new females emerged but it looks to me as if the males continue to search out the females whether they have previously mated or not.
I am lucky to have discovered this nesting place so close to home so that I will be able to keep an eye on it next year too.
Knowing how difficult it was for me to identify a butterfly with quite distinctive markings I can only wonder at your skill at identifying all your bees Amelia. The females don’t seem to have a very good life do they, with all those males jumping on them every time they leave their nest.
The females do seem to look right, look left and zoom out, when they want to leave their nests.
So interesting to read! Your observations and photographs are a wonderfully informative record of the natural history of these bees. Do I detect some colour variation in the bands (yellow/white) on the Colletes? Philip
I did not notice any colour differences. Any differences seen on the photographs will be down to the shade and light differences picked up by the camera. The size difference between the males and females is much clearer when you are watching them milling around together. Amelia
More super observations of this interesting site. You are lucky to have found it, and we are lucky that you are interested and share your observations.
Thank you. It had just about finished by the 20 October so I hope I will be able to watch it next year too. Amelia
And, following on from Susan’s comment…
we were watching some Colletes hederae on our mature ivy this afternoon…
and thanks to your blog I know what they are!!
Now we need to find where they are nesting…
if it is accessible…
and not too far!!
I’m glad you can recognise the Ivy bees now as they are so pretty. The bourgade that I have been watching is very quiet now and most of the holes are closed so perhaps you will have to postpone finding a nesting site nearby until next year. Amelia
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