Title Photo

A male Red Mason Bee at Freshwater Bay.

Wednesday 25 March 2015

Bombylius major - The Dark-edged Bee-fly

The Dark-edged Bee-fly or Large Bee-fly is the most common bee-fly in the UK and today I came across several individuals in my local wood. I spied my first of the year last week at the same location as they busily feed on primrose flowers.
The Bee-fly is a bee mimic and resembles a small bumblebee.The larvae of  Bombylius major parasitise the broods of solitary bees and wasp nests as well as beetle larvae.The female Bee-fly has been observed flicking her eggs in midair into the nest tunnels of ground nesting bees and wasps.Here the eggs hatch and attack the host larva when it is about to pupate.

Thursday 19 March 2015

First Solitary Bee.

Unlike the last two days the weather today was a disappointment.Gathering cloud after lunchtime caused  quite a drop in temperature and any chance to see foraging bees became unlikely.However in my local wood it seemed that the only flowering daisy I came across produced a solitary mining bee.This female is probably one of the Lasioglossum species.

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Another Spring Bee.

The Tree Bumblebee, Bombus hypnorum,is one of the first bumblebees to appear in the spring.Ever since its arrival in the UK in 2001,this bee has spread northwards and a project is currently running to monitor its status in this country. Unusually for a bee this species nests in hollow trees and also in bird boxes.
Today I came across  this individual in my local copse busily collecting pollen from the newly emerging sallow flowers.Queens vary considerably in size although the workers are rather small. Colour can be quite variable and some have a very dark thorax.However they will always have a white tail.
The Tree Bumblebee can be extremely defensive of its nest site and should it be necessary to remove it great care should be taken as they can become very aggressive.Perhaps the best option should be to leave the colony to complete its annual life cycle and die out naturally. 

The Bees,Wasps,and Ants Society (BWARS) is  monitoring the spread of the species in the UK and any sightings can be reported to the project on their website.The Tree Bumblebee is widespread on the continent and presumably its colonization here was a natural progression,maybe due to global warming.Maybe we can look forward to other continental species arriving in the UK because of  our changing climate.
Judging by the latest information this bumblebee has not yet reached Scotland or Ireland but it could only be a matter of time as its habit of nesting in bird boxes will no doubt speed its move north and west.
Like all bumblebees the queen can be seen 'nest searching'  in March and April,normally along walls,fencing,guttering and of course around bird box  entrances. Bombus hypnorum is generally out and about from early spring until June.
Once the nest is complete it is six weeks until the workers take over the foraging and  the nest maintenance  duties.A really healthy colony can have as many as 400 bees but usually they are less in number.A colony  can live for up to five months although others will end earlier due to the activity of the Wax Moth  Aphomia sociella who's caterpillars attack the nest. 

Tuesday 17 March 2015

Build a Bee Hotel.

Now is a good time to provide a home for all sorts of insects and in particular solitary bees.So what could be better than a Bee Hotel.They are easy to make although I took the lazy way out and bought this one for £9..Depending on the size of your hotel it can be free standing or secured to a fence post or tree like mine.Best to be in a sunny spot facing in a southerly direction although sheltered as much as possible  from the rain.Once your mason bees take up residence they will seal the holes with mud so a supply of damp soil nearby will be a help.
All bees are fantastic pollinators and should be welcomed into our gardens.

Thursday 12 March 2015

Overwintering Bombus Terrestris

Over the last twelve years or so,naturalists have noted winter activity by the Buff-tailed Bumblebee,Bombus terrestris, Workers have been seen foraging at a wide range of winter-flowering plants and males have also been reported flying in February. From this it is clear that a small number of mated queens now establish nests in the autumn and they can therefore exploit the increasing winter blooming plants in our parks and gardens.
Today I was fortunate enough to see this Buff-tailed worker in the company of a much larger Buff-tailed queen. Obviously this individual has overwintered in a nest created last autumn.

Thursday 5 March 2015

Start of the New Season.

Now that the weather has become warmer and with the temperatures rising nicely the first Honeybees are buzzing around the garden in the sunshine.There are several hellebore plants in flower and  they are proving to be very popular with the Honeybees and a queen Buff-tailed bumblebee.
My first siting of the Buff-tailed was on the 21st February during a brief mild spell when I saw her with full pollen sacs.No doubt she was just out of hibernation and collecting supplies of pollen for her new nest.