Last year I found two Ivy bee (Colletes hederae) making their nests in the little bit of garden I attempt to grow some herbs in. My Lemon Balm is very vigorous and has been growing very close to the nest site so have tried to clear an area to give the bees plenty of opportunity to tunnel into my dry, sandy soil.
The tiles were placed on the edge of the grass to mark out the area where I had seen the two nests. This year there are two nests in the corner of the site and another three under the edge with the tiles.
Another bee has decided on tunnelling vertically near the corner with the tiles. That makes six holes in all!
Not a bad increase over the year. After all activity has stopped I will cover the area with carboard just to ensure I do not dig it out by accident.
Ivy bees will typically nest in areas where there is scant vegetation such as forest paths, like the photograph above taken in a woodland path near the house. In 2014 I found a large nesting site of Ivy bees, it was about 15 metres long stretching along a forest path, but now it no longer exists. I have looked for the past few years and only found a small number of nests situated on the same path but nearer a road. The path has become a popular track for quad bikes in recent years so perhaps the large nest site was destroyed.
I just hope the site in our garden thrives, although the ivy flowers have not done as well this year because of the extreme drought we have been experiencing this summer.
The saffron has just about finished now and I am only getting two or three blooms a day. I took this picture on the 21 October 2020 to show the average daily “harvest” I was getting at this period.
I always leave collecting the saffron until late afternoon so that the bumble bees can enjoy them before I pick them. However, after I collected flowers, I got busy and left the bowl until the next morning.
In the morning I started to open up the flowers and put the pistils to one side to dry. Then I saw my stowaway!
A little bee was in the saffron! At least this time I can be sure of my identification down to the family level. It is a female from the Halictidae family as you can see the groove or rima at the end of her abdomen. She is likely a Halictus…
I’m not sure whether it is technically correct to call this a wild bee nest. It is definitely bees living in the wild. Should I call them wild bees or feral bees or even run-away bees (having left their bee keeper never to return), I’m not sure.
Anyway, I have always harboured a desire to see bees doing their own thing as nature intended but I never expected to see it in real life. But that was before I was talking about bees to our friend Manuel.
Last autumn there was a violent storm and it brought down an oak tree in some woodland behind vines not far from his house and about two kilometres from our house. He noticed some bees and found that the tree was hollow but that the nest was now exposed. The centre of the tree was filled with honey comb. As time passed…
At the end of my last post I asked if anyone thought Colletes bees might nest in bee hotels. The idea seemed improbable as they are called mining bees because they are subterranean nesters. However, I knew Colletes bees lined their underground cells with a waterproof cellophane-like substance.
Cellophane plug 19.8.13
In August I noticed that one of the holes in the bee hotel had been plugged and the surface had a glassy, shiny appearance. I was not able to take a better photograph as the substance was reflective.
19.8.13.coating on wood
Just under the hole a thin membrane, like a cellophane paper, was adhering to the rough wood.
I was encouraged by Susan (http://daysontheclaise.blogspot.fr/) to enquire on a forum. I was very reticent as I have never asked on a bee forum before so I posed my query on apoidea-gallica.
I received a quick response with a link to a photograph of another shiny plugged hole on Flikr and the suggestions that it could have been filled by a bee in the Genus Hylaeus.
My “Bees of Surrey” by David Baldock tells me that Hylaeus “nest mainly in dead stems (especially brambles) but also in crevices such as holes in wood, stones or walls. The cells are made in a line and are waterproofed by a cellophane-like material.) This seems a likely explanation for my mystery plug.
Astrantia and black bee 21.9.14
In addition, I had a photograph of an unidentified black bee on my Astrantia in September.
Black bee on Astrantia 21.9.14
The photographs are not good enough to positively identify the bee but I’ve learnt a lot from the shiny plug in the bee hotel and I am going to be on the lookout for Hylaeus bees this summer.