Never realised before I started writing a blog how much I enjoyed a good bit of alliteration, but find myself unable to resist calling this post Bumblebee Bonanza. I started writing this post a few days ago when we reached a tally of 8 bee species for 2016. Since then we’ve been spotting a new one almost daily and are now up to 12. As we’re less than half way through April, I’m hopeful of further species to come, but thought I’d better finish this post off before it gets out of control!
I should point out that although we spotted all these different species, many of them were only identified with the help of several very kind and expert people on various Facebook groups – the power of social media!
So first bee of the year was of course my favourite the Hairy Footed Flower Bee (Anthophora plumipes). Seen below in a fairly typical shot of female on the left doing her best to ignore the amorous male on the right.
Next to show in the garden was the Honey Bee (Apis mellifera), in small numbers so far, but hopefully by the summer the garden will be buzzing with them as usual.
The next confirmed species was the first of the bumblebees – the Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris). There have been quite a few of these buzzing about, but this slightly bedraggled looking specimen was the first one to slow down enough to get photographed. It is a social bee living in colonies usually underground.
The 4th species, the Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum) is an interesting new comer, having only been recorded in the south of England since 2001. Well it has obviously reached Malvern now! There is a scheme for recording sightings of this species, so he has been duly logged.
Another bumblebee to pop up in the garden this spring has been the Red Tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius). This is a big bumblebee, so you think it would be easy to get a decent photo. But although we’ve seen them regularly, they seldom sit still long and when they do, they seem to favour flowers at the top of the bushes out of reach of vertically challenged photographers! So the shot below is the best we’ve managed of this species so far this year – but you can just about see his red bum.
The 6th bee species was the first of the mining bees to be positively identified – Andrena nitida – I’m not sure this one has a common name. Mining bees are solitary bees and there are a lot of British species.
The 7th species is from an interesting group known as Cuckoo bees – the one below is the Vestal Cuckoo Bee (Bombus vestalis). Cuckoo bees behave in a similar fashion to their namesake birds – they lay their eggs in the nest of other bees. In the case of the Vestal Cuckoo Bee, its chosen host tends to be the poor Buff Tailed Bumblebee. Cuckoo bees have no pollen sacs on their legs as they have no need to collect pollen for their young, as others do all the work for them.
The 8th bee is the only one we’ve not managed to get to species, but according to the good people of Facebook, it belongs to the Lasioglossum genus and is another mining bee. Lasioglossum species need either microscopic examination or at least better photos than the one below to get them to species.
The 9th bee is the smallest specimen so far – Fabricius’ Nomad Bee (Nomad fabriciana). This is also a cuckoo type of bee, laying its eggs in the nest of mining bees. It looks quite different to the other bees we had, to the point I wasn’t even sure it was a bee at first. The yellow spots on its orange abdomen (just about visible in our photo) identify it as Fabricius’.
Bee no. 10 is the Ashy Mining Bee (Andrena cineraria). I could tell this one was a different species as it looked black and white. Determined to get a photo I spent a long time chasing it round the garden, before it finally gave in and settled on this leaf.
11th species and another mining bee Andrena scotica. These are solitary bees, but nest in aggregates, so they effectively have communes, rather than being properly social like Honey Bees.
The 12th and final bee so far is the Common Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum). This fluffy gingery brown bee is a social one (although not sociable with me, I had to clamber through the undergrowth to get even this poor photo).
So that’s our tally for the year so far. I know from previous years that there are at least 3 or 4 other species that we definitely get, so fingers crossed they reappear this year too. We garden organically at Too Lazy to Weed and I’d like to think this is contributing to the diversity of bees in our garden. That and of course the profusion of weeds!