July 2020 Beehouse Update

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.

Anthidium manicatum carding wool

Anthidium manicatum carding wool


I have some Stachys towards the bottom of the garden.

Not many people can resist stroking the soft furry leaves of Stachys.


But if you see patches on the stem or leaves that are lacking the hairs, it could be that you have an interesting bee in the neighbourhood.

Anthinium manicatum on stem

Yesterday in the garden I noticed this Anthidium manicatum, or wool carder bee making repeated visits to my Stachys.  She must have razor sharp mandibles as the stem is shaved in a firm downward movement.

Anthidium manicatum no hands

She has now collected her bale and is about to fly back to her nest.  I watched her arrive and it took less than a minute for her to roll up a ball of the soft fibres.  I don’t know where she has her nest but last Setember one nested in one of my bee houses and I described it in my other blog A French Garden.  Check out Mason bee hotels or houses to see where she nested.

Anthophora furcata

It was not only the Anthidium that was interested in the Stachys.

Anthophora furcata on Stachys

As I waited for the Anthidium to return, I noticed an Anthophora furcata.

Anthophora furcata on Stachys

Stachys looks and incredibly soft and welcoming plant for bees.


I shouldn’t forget the Carpenter who passed by too but she gets everywhere!

A stripey summer bee, Anthidium manicatum

A stripey summer bee, Anthidium manicatum

Anthidium manicatum male on sedum

Anthidium manicatum male

I see a lot of Anthidium manicatum in the garden in the summer.  Like most bees it is a question of what flowers you grow.  I have several large clumps of nepeta, lots of lavender and different sedum.  There is a large clump of nepeta in a sunny spot in the back garden with a sedum right beside it.  Paradise for the Anthidiums!

Anthidium manicatum male on sedum

Anthidium manicatum male on sedum

The males can be recognised by the shape of the five prongs at the end of their abdomen.

Male Anthidium manicatum

It is not always easy to see the prongs when they are at rest on flowers.  You can see four in the photograph above and have to imagine the fifth on the other side.  The curve of the rear three prongs is also diagnostic.

Anthidium manicatum male head

Anthidium manicatum male head

I would also like to add that no bees were injured to deliver these close-ups and he was shortly patrolling the Nepeta after his photo session.

Anthidium manicatum male side view

Anthidium manicatum male side view

In this photograph my bee is posing with his middle leg forward to show off another particularity of the Anthidium bees.  Bees have a claw at the end of their legs with a little appendix or arolium in the centre of it.  Anthidium have no arolium on their claw – just a 2-pronged claw!

Anthidium manicatum male head

Anthidium manicatum male head

Well I think he is cute.

Anthidium manicatum female on Nepeta

Anthidium manicatum female on Nepeta

The female also has a yellow face but the shape is different.  I was photographing this one when – bang – a male arrived.

Anthidium manicatum mating

Anthidium manicatum mating 26.6.13

No courtship, no preambles, in fact, no choice.  Some male bees can be considerably smaller than the females but the Anthidium males are larger than the females so it is a case of brute force.

Anthidium manicatum mating in lavender

Anthidium manicatum mating in lavender 19.7.13

I was enjoying watching the Anthidium and the Anthophora in the lavender in July and every now and again there was the – bang.  The female Anthidiums were very long suffering and seemed to ignore the males.

Anthidium manicatum on yellow flower 9.8.13

Anthidium manicatum on yellow flower in garden 9.8.13

The male Anthidiums have a bad reputation for being aggressive towards other bees and even wasps and are seemingly capable of tearing their wings with the sharp prongs on the end of their abdomen.

I have not seen this aggression as they share the Nepeta and other flowers with lots of other insects.  Maybe the ones in the Charente Maritime are more laid back – it would not surprise me, it is that sort of place.

Female Anthidium Manicatum on camera 14.7.13

Female Anthidium Manicatum on camera 14.7.13

As I said, I have never found them aggressive.

Female Anthidium manicatum examining camera lens

Female Anthidium manicatum examining camera lens

Inquisitive, perhaps.

Anthidium manicatum on finger


Anthidium manicatum, femalePersistent

Anthidium manicatum on neck

But sweet!

My fifth bee identification ends with a bee kiss.