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!

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Abeille à culottes

Abeille à culottes

17.7.13

17.7.13

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.

Cat's-ears and Hawkbits

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

17.7.13

17.7.13

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.

Dasypoda

I think she has a cute face too!

Mown lawn

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.

17.7.13

17.7.13

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.

30.9.12

30.9.12

However, I was reviewing my photographs and I noticed that I had some photographs taken a year earlier not far from the house.

13.9.12

13.9.12

Then I noticed that this one had green eyes.

12.8.13

12.8.13

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.

12.8.13

12.8.13

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.