July 2020 Beehouse Update

I have numerous beehouses around the garden.  I admit the ones I watch most are where I pass more frequently and where a lot of Osmia nest in springtime, so the action is difficult to miss at those ones.  This beehouse. however, requires some nimble footwork over carefully positioned stepping stones to reach it, so I confess I can miss the comings and goings.

I was first alerted on the 4.7.20 by an Anthidium maniculatum, or wool carder bee, cleaning out one of the holes in the wooden log.  She is a favourite of mine as she is such a hard working and long suffering bee.  If you would like to see more on how she nests and brings in her cotton, I have a post on the wool carder bee here.

When I looked more closely at the house I saw that a lot of the holes had been filled.  The hole above had clearly been closed with pieces of leaf which meant I had missed the leaf-cutting bees last year.

There was also some little bees going into other holes that had been filled with a crystalline filling.

All very confusing and then a few days later I noticed the leaf hole was open and different bees were coming and going through the gap.  I presume this was the male bees attracted to the new females trying to get in first.  They moved too quickly to get a good photograph of them.

The female leaf cutter bees started to clean out their selected holes or tubes.  Any rubbish was gripped by their mandibles and taken far from the nest.

I noticed this leaf cutter cleaning out a hole that had been used by the wool carder bee last year.  Or maybe it was not last years wool as it looks quite clean, maybe there can be a bit of rivalry for a particularly comfy hole?

There are two bees inside this hole so it is difficult to see exactly what is happening.  Some males getting over excited at the prospect of newly hatched females?

The tubes were being filled at the same time.  Some of the leaf cutter bees mash up the leaves and you can see the fresh green surface of the filled tube under the bee in this photo.  I’ll have to look earlier next year to see all the different bees.

The new leaf hole was repaired by 14.7.20.  It was a week of frantic activity and so easy to miss if you are busy in the garden or elsewhere.  Do check in your bee houses as often the holes are not filled exactly flush to the outside of the log or the tube.  Often tell tale trails of pollen leading from the holes alerts you to the activity.  It may not be only yellow pollen as I saw the leaf cutters bringing in pink and lilac pollen which particularly delights me.

I did track a leaf cutter down to the other side of the garden on my Anisodontea, which maybe the source of the pink pollen.  She was carefully cutting a small piece from a fading leaf.  There were plenty of green leaves but she chose the drying one.  I am not sure if this was the same species I was seeing in my houses.

I am pretty sure this is one of the leaf cutters I have in my boxes.

I noticed a suspicious looking visitor.  I do not know what it is but it could be one of the many insects that is parasitic on the bees,

I am looking forward to seeing them when they hatch next year.  I only saw the black insect once.

Watching the bees make their nests is fascinating.  I was watching three different species using the box at the same time!  If you do not have a bee house I recommend one – not for the bees as I am sure they are capable of find plenty of suitable places – but for the sheer pleasure of sharing these brief moments with them.


17 thoughts on “July 2020 Beehouse Update

  1. Pingback: July 2020 Beehouse Update | a french garden

  2. Super post! I have not seen the leaf cutter bees here (Vaucluse) but maybe I have not noticed. My bee houses have lots of new nests but I don’t know who made them. Also lots of carder bees as we have lambs ears everywhere and they use that for their wool. Currently the blooming vitex tree is attracting everything, many species visiting, it just hums all day! Thank you!
    bonnie in provence

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just have patience and watch the nests on a sunny day and I am sure you will see some. I have a couple of Vitex too, but I have not put them in very good places. They are squashed and now they are too much in the shade. I have a problem finding enough places in the sun. Amelia


  3. The bees with the crystaline finish to their nests are resin bees, Heriades…. I have five finished holes in one of the logs…. they use a 4mm hole for preference….. but the holes are now 3 yrs filled and no movement… so they are gonners I’m afraid.
    I use my close-focusing binoculars to watch the nests…. I can stand or sit further away and not interfere with their flight-path…. and yes, I get a lot of pleasure watching them.


  4. Hello Amelia,
    A fantastic range of well observed and taken photos. I don’t know whether it’s because of my years spent as a vet, but each time I’ve looked at the leaf cutter bee with the yellowing leaf, I see the slightly grumpy face of a small dog, like a French bulldog! And no matter how many times I’ve looked at it, I can’t work out the bee’s wings in relation to the head on the left – it almost looks like there must be two bees there…
    Best wishes


    • I see what you mean but as I saw her working it looks so obvious to me. She was gripping the leaf with her legs and steadying herself with her abdomen so she bend over and cut off the piece of leaf in this acute angle position. Bees can be a lot more flexible than you think, especially the solitary bees. The wings are sticking out of the side of the abdomen in a relaxed flying position. I’ll send you other views as I know it will bother you :). Amelia


  5. Very interesting. Your mystery insect looks a bit like a solitary wasp but more photos of the abdomen would be helpful. Have you considered that the leaf mastic might be coming from Osmia species? In the UK, both O.leiana and O.caerulescens fill bee hotels with leaf mastic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have had O.caerulescens and I would recognise it again because of its big head. The O. leiana could well have sneaked in and I have not noticed. It is much easier to identify the bees at the bee houses when there are several nesting, which is often the case. I feel there have been less groups of several individuals this year. Amelia


  6. I just found this blog, it looks as a great Reading for winter 🙂 I’m curious whether you already identified your mystery insect. For a first glance, it resembles something from Sapygidae to me – Sapyga and its relatives are “cuckoos” parasitising nests of some solitary bees. I’ve never seen them yet.


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