La bourgade revisited

La bourgade revisited

Colletes hederae female

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.

Male Colletes hederae

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.

Female Colletes hederae

Not all the females made a “bee-line” for the correct hole.  This female noticed her mistake and came out again.

Female Colletes hederae

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.

Female Colletes hederae

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.

Female Colletes hederae

This little female let herself be picked up and did not seem to be in a hurry to dig a hole or collect pollen.

Epeolus fallax

I only saw the one cuckoo bee surveying the bourgade on my visits.

IMG_4663

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.

Epeolus fallax

So she had to be caught and taken home for a closer look.

Epeolus fallax

From the rear.

Epeoleus fallax

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.

Mating ball

One thing I noticed even a week after my first visit was that the mating was a continuous event.

Mating ball

The females can be pounced on by several males.

Mating ball

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.

Mating ball

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.

Advertisements
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.

Bourgade

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.

Photographer

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.

 

 

Colletes cunicularis, a mining bee

Colletes cunicularis, a mining bee

I am continuing my winter identification of the bees I have seen last year.  This will be the fifth bee I have identified.

Nest 10.3.13

Nest 10.3.13

I first saw the nest near one of the apple trees and I marked it with a stick so that I could keep an eye on it.

10.3.13

10.3.13

I was rewarded later when I caught site of a bee heavily laden with pollen.

10.3.13

10.3.13

These photographs are taken without  a Macro lens.

Droplet.10.3.13

Droplet.10.3.13

When the photographs are enlarged I could notice a droplet at the far end of her abdomen but the quality of the photograph is poor.

 20.3.13

20.3.13

I tried to check it as often as I could but although it remained open, I had no more luck in seeing my bee.

31.3.13

31.3.13

Then on 31 March when I looked into the hole it looked darker.

Eye appears.31.3.13

Eye appears.31.3.13

As I watched an eye appeared.

Hole enlarging

Hole enlarging

She appeared to be enlarging…

and enlarging

and enlarging

and enlarging the hole.

Emerging

Emerging

I became braver and tried to get a little closer as she seemed so absorbed in her work.

Densely pitted clypeus

Densely pitted clypeus

I had now bought my Macro lens and was able to get a better shot.

S shape on wing vein

S shape on wing vein

Colletes is the only genera with S-shaped second recurrent vein on the forewing so later I was able to identify the genus.

Approaching the surface

Approaching the surface

I watched her for 37 minutes, taking quite a few photographs.

Closed hole

Closed hole

It wasn’t until near the end that I realised she was, in fact, closing her hole.  Satisfied her work was complete, she flew away.

I kept watch on the hole but it was never disturbed and gradually disappeared under the vegetation that constitutes our lawn.

We have willows or I believe sallows (Salix caprea) that were flowering from the beginning of March last year and also a very large plum tree that started to flower mid March so I think she would have not have had to fly far for pollen.

The droplet on her rear abdomen intrigues me as the Colletes produce a cellophane-like material to line their nests and I wonder if this could ooze onto her abdomen.

 19.8.13

19.8.13

Another intrigue!  I found this layer of cellophane-like material adhering to the outside of a bee hotel in my front garden in August.

Cellophane hole 19.8.13

Cellophane hole 19.8.13

Close by a single hole had been sealed by what looked like the same material.  The photograph is poor as the surface was reflective and I was not able to show the shininess of the surface in my photographs.

Do any Colletes species nest in holes in wood?  Does another bee use this material to fill its holes?  I’d love to find out.

I’ll be keeping my eye on my bee hotel and also on the area that my Colletes has built her nest.  My sandy soil and willows might attract even more Colletes to nest in the garden.

Colletes hederae, the Ivy Bee

Colletes hederae, the Ivy Bee

Colletes hederae

My second post is on the last bee of the season that I have seen.  I was so thrilled to find him that I used the photo above as the seasonal header for my garden blog a French Garden.

Colletes hederae male

Colletes hederae male

Colletes hederae is also called the Ivy Bee as until recently it was thought to be monolectic on ivy, that is it collected pollen only from ivy.  Recents studies examining the pollen loads of C. hederae have shown that it will collect pollen from a variety of different sources.

male Colletes hederae

The males of C. succinctus and C. halophilus are very similar to the male C. hederae so I do not think that either of them will be on the ivy near me.  C. halophilus prefers coastal areas and both are more attracted to heathland.  I have never found any heather growing nearby so it is not their preferred habitat.

Female Colletes hederae

The female is an eye catching bee and can be easily distinguished from the honey bees that are always present on the flowering ivy.  She carries the pollen loosely all over her hind legs.  In France they can be found between the end of August and the end of October.   I took these photographs on a sunny day at the beginning of October.

I have a love hate relationship with ivy.  In my garden it will choke all vegetation that stands in its way and for that reason I continually pull it out.  Outside in the woods it grows high into the trees providing a wonderful source of nourishment for all kinds of creatures when it flowers at the end of the summer.  Never the less it appears to me very invasive in the woods too, lying thick on the ground in many places choking out all competitors.

Honey bee on ivy

Honey bee on ivy

When the honey bees gather the ivy pollen their sacs have a much more waxy appearance.

Female C. hederae

Standing beside the ivy in full flower on a sunny day is a heady experience.  The perfume from the flowers is intense.  Different people describe the perfume as pleasant, of no particular interest or distinctly unpleasant according to their particular sensitivities.

Both the honey bees and the Ivy bees attempt to retrieve the maximum amount of pollen.

Honey bee with ivy pollen

The honey bees too carry huge loads of the ivy pollen.  It is difficult to imagine them flying back to their hives with such large loads.

Colletes hedera and pollen load

Perhaps not all the pollen can be carried back without some being dropped but there is plenty for all.

My regret this year was that I was late in my search for the Ivy bee and I was not sure if the bee was present nearby.  C. hederae nests in huge aggregates in the soil and the dry sandy soil of this area would provide an ideal base for nest building – the only problem is where.  Now my challenge for next year will be to look out for suitable nesting sites for these late flying bees.