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.

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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.

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

Touchy-feely?

Anthidium manicatum, femalePersistent

Anthidium manicatum on neck

But sweet!

My fifth bee identification ends with a bee kiss.

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