So here is a badger foraging in my garden
It digs holes and scrapes in its search for food
And then …. a Tawny Mining Bee (Andrena fulva) excavates her nest in one of the badger scrapes – the entrance looks like a little volcano.
And this is the female Tawny Mining Bee who excavated this nest
And here she is emerging from her nest
Lurking nearby is the Dark Bordered Bee-fly (Bombylious major) which is a parasitoid i.e. it lays it egg in the burrow of the Tawny Mining Bee (and other species) – its larvae then eat the larvae of the bee
Also lurking in the nearby flower bed is Gooden’s Nomad Bee (Nomada goodeniana) – another parasitoid species, but this a bee not a fly and fortunately for the Tawny Mining Bee it lays its eggs in the nests of other Mining Bee species
And all of this happening in my back garden in Exeter over the past couple of weeks …..
29 degrees in the garden this afternoon and surprisingly not many insects on the wing
The commonest species by far is the honey bee
The Early Bumblebee (Bombus pratorum) is a common species in our countryside and gardens.
Distinctive yellow, black and red markings make this an easy species to identify.
Off to the next flower.
Found this bee in the garden this morning.
It is a female Orange-legged Furrow Bee Halictus rubicundus
A common species in southern Britain.
I photographed a couple of bees in my garden a couple of days ago. Such bees are pretty difficult to identify so I may have misidentified them.
I think this is the Chocolate Mining Bee Andrena scotica
They excavate nests in soil where they lay their eggs
I think this is the Flavous Nomad Bee Nomada flava (a female)
And this is a male – they are kleptoparasites which means they lay their eggs in the nests of other bees – the grub then eats the egg or grub of the other bee and feeds on the nest’s food stores.
If my ID is correct the Flavous Nomad Bee parasitises the Chocolate Mining Bee.
The sunshine yesterday brought out some members of the bee and wasp family.
This is, I think, a Honeysuckle Sawfly (Zaraea lonicerae) – not a fly but a type wasp!
And this is a Hairy-footed Flower Bee (Anthophora plumipes) – a type of solitary bee.
Amazing day’s weather in Exeter yesterday – it seemed like all four seasons had been wrapped into one day. Heavy rain, hail, 18 degree sunshine and wind. During the sunny bits it seemed like spring had arrived – I saw my first bee flies of the year along with hoverflies, a peacock butterflies and the solitary bee – the Hairy-footed Flower Bee.
This is the Dark-edged Bee-fly (Bombylius major) – the most common of the bee flies in the UK
(it is a fly not a bee)
It has a very interesting life cycle which I have written about before – see here – it only flies when temperatures are above 17 degrees.This is the Drone Fly (Eristalis tenax) – a hover fly which is mimicking a honey bee. Hoverflies cannot sting but work on the assumption that you think they can!
Another shot – feeding on a Lesser Celandine – note the single pair of wings and the large compound eyes which distinguish flies from bees
This is the first Solitary Bee of the year to emerge – Hairy-footed Flower Bee (Anthophora plumipes) – this is a male – they emerge several weeks before the females – note the hairy feet!
Lovely yellow hairs on his face
If you have got a garden it is possible/probable that all of these species will be living in it – on a sunny day have a look to see who you are sharing your garden with.
For the last few weeks spring has been unfolding at a steady pace, today my garden has burst into life. There are butterflies, solitary bees, bumblebees, hoverflies, beetles and bugs everywhere. I even surprised a grass snake on the lawn which promptly slid off into the undergrowth. I’m sure who was most startled ….. I have managed to photograph a few species.
This is a red-headed Cardinal beetle (Pyrochroa serraticornis)
This is a capsid or mired bug called Dryophilocoris flavoquadrimaculatus
A green-veined white feeding on a Geranium
This splendid beast is a hoverfly which is mimicking a common carder bumblebee – it is called Criorhina floccosa
I have never seen this species before and it is rather a scarce species usually associated with woodland – the huge protected oaks in my garden might have helped lure it in.
Finally I found this and to be honest I don’t know what it is – any ideas anyone?
Following a campaign by Friends of the Earth, Buglife and the Devon Wildlife Trust, Devon County Council councillors have voted to ban the use of neonicotinoid (neonics) insecticides on land they control.
Neonics are groups of systemic pesticides which are applied as a seed dressing meaning that the insecticide is taken up by the plant tissue and can then be ingested by non target species such as bees and other pollinators. Buglife have been campaigning for many years now to get neonics banned as there is now a substantial body of evidence shows that their use has caused declines in bee populations – see here and here.
Well done Devon County Council! Whilst this step on its own will not remove the threat to bees across Britain it does send a message which others elsewhere will hopefully now heed.
Neonics don’t just impact on honey bees they can also affect bumblebees and solitary bees (along with many other species of pollinating insects). Many of these species are now in serious decline across the country – not just because of pesticide use but also because of habitat change and the loss of wild flowers. However gardens are important places for many species of bee now and as individuals we can do a lot to encourage, support and protect bees. Flowers in our gardens attract lots of insects and we can help bees by providing nesting sites for them. I have recently acquired a bee hotel to do just that.
In essence it is a structure which is protected from the worse of the weather which provides nesting places for a number of our solitary bees which nest in small cavities
The holes (either short sections of bamboo or holes drilled into pieces of untreated wood) are of different sizes to suit different species. You can make a bee hotel yourself (see here) or buy one.
I will report back over the summer to let you know whether my bee hotel is being used!
As the spring unfolds more and more species of wildlife are beginning to emerge. It has been a tough start to spring though with cold temperatures and lots of rain. I am focusing on bees this year thanks to the publication of Steven Falk’s and Richard Lexington’s new book – the Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland – see here for my mini review of the book.
Yesterday I identified a new species in my garden – the Orange-legged Furrow Bee (Halictus rubicundus).
When I took this photo I was focusing on the bee on the flower but when I looked at the image (which I have now cropped) I noticed the second ‘striped’ bee on the right.
Note the orange furry legs – especially on its tibia and the orange fur on its thorax
In this picture you can also see the four yellowy/orange bands on its abdomen.
Both the bees in these photos are females – the female emerge as early as March and can be on the wing until October. The males don’t appear until mid June. Unlike many species of bee the Orange-legged Furrow Bee is very cosmopolitan – i.e. it can be found in a variety of habitats from coastal sites right up to moorland areas as well as garden. It does however require habitats that are rich in flowers. My garden at the moment is covered in parts in lesser celandine. They make their nest by burrowing into light soil.
Here is the distribution map for the Orange-legged Furrow Bee in the UK (courtesy of the National Biodiversity Network). Inevitably many of the ‘gaps’ in its distribution arise because it has been unrecorded – i.e. not many people can identify the species!