Thursday, 21 February 2013

Thieving Bees!

One of my favourite Bees is undoubtedly that early spring Species Anthophora plumipes, also known as the Hairy Footed Flower Bee. They are sexually dimorphic, the male being a rich orange, fading to grey in later life whilst the females are all black with obvious yellowy orange pollen covered tibia.  I never used to notice these bees in my garden and can only assume that they are recent arrival to my home patch.  However a rich supply of Archangel in the garden gets them in quite nicely.  They are pretty specific about the types of plant they feed off, preferring tubular flowers such a nettles and lungworts. I'm not sure where they nest near me as they like clay banks in which to burrow.  My bee log mentioned in a previous blog seems quite popular as a bachelor pad regularly attracting roosting males.

An old Male Hairy Footed Flower Bee, making use of my Bee log.  Males use it
as a night time roost.   I've never yet seen a female use the holes as a roost. 
All is not plain sailing for these bees as I found out last spring when walking next to Stoke Weir, Radcliffe-on-Trent Nottinghamshire.  Both upstream and downstream of the weir are eroded clay cliffs, in places these readily crumble and consist of bare earth.  These westerly facing slopes catch the afternoon and evening sun and provide an ideal home for the Hairy footed flower bee.  However a nest intruder awaits in another bee of equal size to the hairy footed namely the cleptoparasite Mellecta albifrons.  This bee enters the hairy footed's nest and lays an egg on the provisions left by the nest builder.  Definitely worth a look, late March just downstream of Stoke Weir should do it.  They're pretty easy to spot as they are both quite large bees. Just look for bare earth on the bank and it shouldn't be long until a few are milling around, weather permitting.   

Mellecta albifrons - sunning itself Stoke Weir Spring 2012.
They are permanently on the look out for entrance hole of  Anthophora

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