A new Megachile in the garden

A new Megachile in the garden

It was a beautiful day on Sunday (18.7.2021) and I thought I would have a look at the bees on the flowers in the garden. I saw one on the Cosmos that I did not recognise.

Luckily I got a shot of the wing venation, and it is luck for me because it depends on the angle of the sun and how long the bee will stay in place.

The two sub marginal cells allowed me to confirm that it was a Megachile.

I would always like to go further but it is impossible to be precise from a photograph and I am not an entomologist, so I do not capture the bees for a closer look.

He looked like a male but I could not recall ever seeing him before but I had seen photographs on the internet.

This made me wonder if it was a Lithurgus chrysurus male. These are Mediterranean bees – but I am further north in the Charente Maritime.

They build their nests in dead, dry often rotting wood or even cow pats. Well, we have plenty of rotting wood left around the garden and certainly in the woods around us. Another feature is the extra long tongue which facilitates getting nectar from some plants such as the Centaurea. Cosmos is in the same family of Asteraceae so perhaps my bee is happy with my cosmos. He certainly had a long tongue.

So, I cannot be certain of my ID but he is very welcome in the garden and I am fascinated by his beautiful green eyes.

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First female of the season

First female of the season

I had always thought the Osmia cornuta males had to wait several weeks before the females appeared. So I was very surprised to see the first female Osmia cornuta, yesterday, the 4 February 2021. That is exactly one week after I saw the first male Osmia emerge.

She was actually on the ground in the tight embrace of a male Osmia cornuta when I noticed her.

With the digital camera you have no need to take a note of the time you take the photograph so I had a good record of how long she remained subjugated. It looked fairly consensual if you accept the fact that the male had her wings tightly gripped closed. She was able to walk with her burden up a shooting clematis. She is much larger than the male and I think she could have manage to release herself had she chosen.

They were just under the bee box which was being patrolled by the usual bunch of hopeful males. The other males eventually spotted the female and tried some dive bomb tactics to dislodge their rival.

Interesting as it all was, I had to leave them at it and go in for lunch. The last photograph I took of them was still on the Clematis after 52 minutes of togetherness.

I have better photographs of the female on an old blog “A good spring for Osmia cornuta”.

I will now have to see if she chooses my boxes to make her nest.

First solitary bee of 2021 (not counting bumbles)

First solitary bee of 2021 (not counting bumbles)

That’s not a honey bee!

I was watching idly yesterday (16 February 2021) while the honeybees were feasting on the winter flowering heather. The bee in question was the same size as our honeybees but looking at it closely it was most definitely not a honeybee.

I was very impressed that it was my husband that spotted the bee as I am the one that is more interested in the solitary bees.

I thought he was very handsome and his long antenna made me think he was a male.

Just as I was thinking that you could never be sure – another bee arrived and he leapt on top of her – which settled the question. She was larger and after a few brief couplings they both flew off. He was much more gentle than some of the very aggressive males, perhaps there was no competition around.

I desperately tried to get some good photographs of the female but with no luck. This is the best and the orange tibia hairs leave more questions than answers.

The identity of the bee has been solved by El Gritche! He has commented on my blog A French Garden and says they are Colletes and probably succinctus! So kind of him to leave a comment! I should have thought about Colletes on heather.

I did not get a good shot of the wing venation but I think they are Andrena. I checked and there are 65 species of Andrena in the U.K. (probably more in France.) So with so little information I can give no identification.

It was a lovely moment though just watching them!

The little bees

The little bees

I was watching the bees and butterflies mob my Evodia tree (or Tedradium daniellii, depending on what you want to call it).  At the same time I noticed clouds of tiny flies around the flowers.  I had never noticed such numbers of tiny flies being attracted to my other “pollinator attractive” plants.

I managed to get close to some of the flowers on the lower branches and look closer at the “flies”.

I was horrified to see on closer inspection that they were tiny bees that I had mistaken for flies.  I measured the Evodia’s petal and it is between 4-5 mm., so that gives you an indication of how small these bees are.

I have already posted about Carpenter bees in France.

I can imagine these big but harmless bees terrifying tourists from northern Europe as they relax in the garden of their holiday home and experience these bees for the first time.  The first reflex is often to reach for the insect spray and kill them.

I had just jumped to the conclusion that the insects were flies based solely on their numbers.  However, the thought occurred to me that whereas the Carpenter bee was at risk in human encounters because of its size, the little bee could be endangered for the same reason but at the other end of the spectrum – being mistaken for a fly.

Bees have the unsolicited benefit of being seen as “cute” to a large section of the human race and “useful” and to be protected to many more.  Flies and other creepy crawlies have much less protection against the whims of human nature, despite frequently being pollinators themselves.

I have been seeing plenty of the little bees in the garden and they are easy to find on the Thalictrum.

I managed to measure the anthers of the Thalictrum stamens to be around 3-3.5 mm.  which looks about the same length as the bee.

I hope that enthusiastic gardeners think before reaching for the spray can and realise that these little bees are not going to bite them or their children or consume large quantities of their favorite plants, nor yet spread diseases.

They visit a variety of flowers and I was surprised to see them visiting the water lilies.

I feel I have little chance of identifying them.  Even with the help of Steven Falk’s wonderful book “Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland” their identification is beyond me.  However, the tell-tale vertical slit in the last segment of the abdomen of the females make me think they are Lassioglossom bees.  There are so many species that it is quite possible that I have more than one species visiting the garden.

I just hope anyone reading this appreciates how small bees can be and cherishes them.

First wild bee of the year

First wild bee of the year

1st bee

It was only the 12 February 2019 and I saw my first solitary bee taking nectar from the Viburnum tinus in the garden.

2nd bee

Almost immediately I spotted another one, slightly larger, but not I thought the same species.

1st bee on top

The first bee is very much like a male to me and I was keen to get a photograph of the wing venation to identify it to genera level.

1st bee venation

I thought I had it and saw the second bee on the ground.

2nd bee under plum tree

The second bee looked interested in prospecting the area.  Looking out for females, I wondered?  This is under our plum tree and there is already a colony of Andrena cineraria in residence that will put in an appearance later in the year but I could see no sign of any holes and I did not get a wing shot.

Back inside I found that the wing venation photograph was not as good as I had hoped but I thought I could perhaps push through the identification key in Steven Falk’s Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland.  When I turned up with the proposed ID as a bumblebee I realised I had gone adrift somewhere.

Never mind, perhaps another day.

queen bumble white tail.JPG

Then the idea came to me that I could perhaps identify the huge white tailed queen that is with me throughout the winter on sunny days.

But no – this too is past my ken.

queen bumble early

On the 12th. I had also seen for the first time the orange tailed queen.  I am fairly certain this is Bombus pratorum, the early bumble bee.

queen carder bee.JPGToday, 15th. February I saw my first carder queen.  I am not even trying to go closer than that.  I am just happy to see so many bees in the garden in the sunshine.

Ginger bee

Ginger bee

I saw this bee on Lavender growing in our village.  It was healthy and flying rapidly and did not look old or faded.

I find that its colour is quite remarkable.  In fact, although it looked like a honey bee I had to assure myself that it had hairs on its eyes and wing venation that agreed with the identification of a honey bee.

I have seen “black bees” and Italian bees but never this colour of bee.

Does anyone know if it is a special type of honey bee?

 

A very early bee

A very early bee

Andrena 26.1.2016

We were out walking on Tuesday 26 January 2016, it was nearly five o’clock in the afternoon and I had not bothered to take my camera along.  Nevertheless, I can’t help keeping my eyes on dandelions, checking for bumble bees, but instead I spotted a solitary bee: an Andrena on a dandelion.  My husband came to my rescue and took a photograph for me.

I think it is an Andrena haemorrhoa – its common name being the Early Mining Bee but by early in the U.K. they mean you can see it usually starting in March.  I felt rather sorry for it as it was not moving but sheltering in the dandelion for warmth.

The exceptionally mild weather with temperatures peaking up to seventeen degrees centigrade with sunshine has obviously woken some wild bees from their winter dormancy.  Luckily the flowers are being fooled too but I hope she has enough strength to make it back to her tunnel.

In praise of Hebe

In praise of Hebe

IMG_0980

I bought my white Hebe for 10 euros 25 in March 2014 to provide ground cover for a difficult dry, sunny patch in my front garden.

Honey bee

It has been money well spent as it flowered in the first year and is flowering again just now.

Fast bee

The honey bees make straight for it.  It is called véronique arbustive in French which sounds a much more charming name for such a beautiful plant.  It belongs to the Scrophulariaceae family of plants which contains many plants that the bees and other insects love for their high nectar content.

Bigger black bee

But it is not only the honey bees that are attracted to it.

Tiny black bee 2

There are lots of wild solitary bees that love it too.  Compare the sizes of the bees in the last two photographs with the size of the flowers.

Tiny black bee

These little black bees are so tiny that I’m sure some people must mistake them for flies.

Bee fly

It does attract the bee flies too.  This one is a particularly good bumble bee mimic and even buzzes like a bee.  They are, however, parasitic on solitary bees.  Their eggs need to hatch in the nest of a bee or other insect so that the larvae can feed on the larval stages of the host insect.

Shiny Halictes

This bee is particularly attractive as it is a shiny gold colour.  The little slit at the rear of the abdomen shows that it is in the family of Halictidae but I can’t go closer than that.

Peacock butterfly

Peacock butterfly (Inachis io)

The butterflies come for the nectar, too.

Lycaena top

This one is a copper.

Lycaena underside

Perhaps the Sooty Copper (Lycaena tityrus).

Yellow pollen

The honey bees don’t seem to bother with collecting the pollen from the flowers although I think the little bees are more patient and collect a cream pollen but the bee above has been visiting somewhere else to have collected all that yellow pollen.

Bumble on Dahlia

Strangely, I see very few bumble bees on the Hebe.  They much prefer the Dahlias that are growing all around it.

So, if you are looking for a plant that doesn’t cost a lot, provides lots of entertainment by attracting bees and butterflies and is easy to care for – I think Hebe ticks all the boxes.

 

Anthidium manicatum carding wool

Anthidium manicatum carding wool

Stachys

I have some Stachys towards the bottom of the garden.

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

IMG_0432

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.

Carpenter

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

Andrena agilissima colony

Andrena agilissima colony

Last May I saw Andrena agillisima for the first time (See my blog Andrena agillisima).  Now I have discovered a nesting place at the bottom of my garden.

IMG_9116

Some years ago a large Poplar tree fell down in a storm.  The tree was cut up and used for the fire in due course but the root was left as it had fallen in a part of the garden that was very overgrown at that time.  It has formed a very large well-drained mound and this year I spotted the holes and the Andrena agilissima.

However, despite seeing them flying too and fro, I have not been able to get a photograph very easily, as they do not hang about. However, my patience has been rewarded.

1.Andrena agilissima at entrance

I at last managed to get a shot of the black and white head surveying the world from the security of her burrow.

2.Antenna appears

Then I noticed another antenna appear.

3.Second antenna

Then a pair of antennas appeared.

5.Squeeze out

The second bee pushed herself under the first in her wish to exit the common hole.

6.Wings spread

I had not realised that the Andrena agillissima would share the entrance holes to the colony but inside she will build her own capsule for her egg to pass through the larval stages and overwinter as an adult.

The first bee only hesitated a few seconds before joining the second to search for flowers.  She shouldn’t have had far to go if she wanted to try my sprout plants which are flowering specially for her.  You can see her take flight in the slideshow below.

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