I took this picture in our garden last July. In French this bee is called “l’abeille à culottes“, a lovely name for a beautiful bee. The garden was a favourite place for gathering pollen last summer.
As you see we have more than grass in the back garden. These are Cats ears or Hawkbits but I think it is better just to call them weeds but to be more exact they fit into the Asteraceae family. The abeille aux culottes gathers pollen for her nest from these flowers and other Asteraceae, usually yellow ones, like dandelions. The whole area was in constant movement as the bees sat on a flower head making it dip and then bounce back as it flew to another flower. This ten second video clip gives you a better idea of what I mean http://youtu.be/758iIZimddQ
Her silky hind legs are beautiful and can carry large loads of pollen to her nest. She is a mining bee but I have never been able to find her nesting in the garden – not yet.
I think she has a cute face too!
It poses problems cutting the grass but we cannot take all her flowers away so we have to leave enough islands of weeds to provide her with pollen.
If I had taken this picture in the U.K. I would have no hesitation in identifying her as Dasypoda hirtipes. She is a pretty remarkable looking bee and would be difficult to mistake her for any other. She has also had the decency to be feeding on a yellow Asteraceae which is her main source of pollen, being rarely seen feeding on other flowers.
However, I was reviewing my photographs and I noticed that I had some photographs taken a year earlier not far from the house.
Then I noticed that this one had green eyes.
Then, in August I had seen another Dasypoda, which I saw as different straight away as she had white hairs on her rear legs and she was feeding on common knapweed (Centaurea cyanus) which although not yellow still belongs to the Asteraceae family.
In addition, she has green eyes.
Yes, in France they have more than one species of Dasypoda. I’m pretty sure my garden Dasypoda are hirtipes but the others could be argentata or albimana or yet another species. Indeed, the bee on the Centaurea has been identified as Tetralonia dentata (see comment below.)
I have been warned that unless you are an expert and prepared with the necessary information and at least a magnifying glass you cannot pronounce on the species of a bee. However, I thought that there must be some common but remarkable bees that you could not go wrong with.
It is discouraging when you have such a low chance of identifying the bee correctly. I think I will have to change my tactic from now on and identify to genera only and try to identify the likely contenders because of the season, locality and flower choice. Here that might mean quite a few bees.