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.

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A Megachile emerges

A Megachile emerges

1-Rose meg 4.9.13 19-57 (2)

On the fourth of September last year I noticed a hole in my bee hotel had been beautifully sealed by carefully arranged sections of rose petals. (See Some Megachile).

1-1 Rose petal hole_0527

On the 24 of May this year I noticed a hole had been chewed in the centre of it.

1-2 24.5.14 1920_0532

I could not resist removing the remains of the rose petals to get a better look.  A new little bee was making her way into the world.  However, it was 19.20 and domestic duties called and the light was fading for photographs.

1-3 Rose hole 25.5.14 11.04_0536

It was 11.04 the next morning before I was able to get back to my bee and she seemed just to be waking up.

1-4 25.5.14.11.11_0542

Seven minutes later and she was not  making an enormous progress.

1-5 25.5.14.11-13_0543

Then two minutes later there is movement from the hole above her.

1-8 other further out 11.26_0568

Now which one should I focus on?  The other one is larger and not the same species.  Very interesting but I do not want to lose my rose petal bee.

1-9 other out 11-26_0569

After a couple of minutes hesitation the big bee launches itself into the air.  Sorry about the blur but it was the best I could do.  I have no idea what species it was.

1-10 At edge 11-38_0586

Back to my rose bee that has been emerging gradually for the last  34 minutes.  She seemed to have a considerable difficulty pulling herself through the little hole she had chewed in her leaf capsule that had been her home since last September.

1-11 On outside 11-39_0596

Finally after watching and taking photographs of her for 35 minutes she emerges onto the outside of the log.

1-12 Going 11-39_0600

She paused momentarily before taking off.   After this first one, many others emerged from the same hole in the following few days, usually taking less time to exit than this first one.  Sometimes it looked as if the bee next in the queue was giving encouragement from behind because as one took off, another little head appeared at the hole.

However, I am not certain what species of leaf cutting bee she is.  Megachile centuncularis are well known for their use of rose petals which points me in this direction.  It is a common bee and I have seen bees looking like Megachile centuncularis on the bee box last year.

1-13 26.8.13 Mummy head

Could this be Mummy emerging from another hole in the log on the 26 August last year?

1-14 26.8.13 Mummy (2)

I base my identification of the bees I saw filling the holes last August on Steven Falk’s wonderful photographs and information

Megachile centuncularis female - Ouaisne Common, Jersey 2014b

, he says females can be distinguished from some other British species by the bright orange pollen brush that remains orange haired to its tip (black-haired at tip in some others).

Well, even if I cannot be 100 percent sure of my French bees at least I can say I breed beautiful bees!