Barbut's Cuckoo Bee (Bombus barbutellus, #537 )

This faded male bumblebee is, I believe, Barbut’s Cuckoo Bee. This species resembles its host, Garden Bumblebee (Bombus hortorum), but has an almost circular face, unlike the elongated face of Bombus hortorum. As a cuckoo bee, the female searches out a nest of its host bumblebee, entering the nest, usually killing the host queen, then laying its eggs in the nest. The cuckoo bees larvae are then fed and looked after by the host worker bees until they leave the nest in July - September.

Attracted to Yellow

When the sun shines the number of insects on the flowers goes up. The current batch of pollinating insects seem to like yellow and orange best; the Goldenrod (which is just opening up) being hands down the most popular with many species.

Long hoverflies are one of the commonest species at this time, along with marmalade and white-footed hoverflies. I’ve also seen a few Thick-legged Hoverflies (Syritta pipiens), a species that I didn’t record last year.

The small bee is I believe a collettes, Colletes daviesanus. These are plasterer bees and nest, sometimes in large colonies, in the mortar on old walls. I’m sure they will like the soft lime mortar on my walls and apparently a big colony can eventually damage the fabric of the wall. The bristly, orange-marked fly is Eriothrix rufomaculata. The adults of this species are attracted to flowers, while their larvae are parasites of moth larvae.

Flavous Nomad Bee (Nomada flava, #463)

These nomad bees have been driving me mad the last few days as they are pretty small (+/- 1 cm) and hardly ever land for more than a few seconds. They just cruise around and around the elder trees in the wild corner of the garden. Today I got a break as one of them got trapped in a spider’s web enabling me to get a decent look. They really do look like mini wasps, patrolling around like wasps too; but close up you can see red mixed with the yellow stripes on the body. This one appears to be Flavous Nomad Bee (Nomada flava), but the identification between this species and Panzer’s Nomad Bee is pretty difficult. Nomad bees are kleptoparasitic cuckoo bees of mining bees; in this case usually Andrena scotica (Chocolate Mining Bee). Apparently the males search our the host bee’s nests, which they scent mark, helping the females to locate the nests for egg laying. The nomad bee’s larvae kill the host’s and any other nomad bee larvae present, so only one bee larva remains in the nest to feed of the stored pollen & nectar, the adult wasp emerging the next Spring.

Easter Pick & Mix

A bit of a mixed bag around the garden today, with Chocolate Mining Bee (Andrena scotica, 459) adding to the medley of mining bees that are present at the moment. A few Amara ground. beetles were to be seen in the sunshine; this one appears like a Common Sun Beetle (Amara aenea). Next a couple of spiders. Zebra Spider (Salticus scenicus, #460) is usually a common enough species of jumping spider, but I didn’t find one last summer, so it was nice to catch this one in the sunshine by the front door. The not-so-long-legged harvestman is Phalangium opilio (#461); found while doing some gardening,

Sorting out some Bees

I'm finding bees pretty hard to identify, despite having a Falk's field guide to the Bees of GB & Ireland on loan.  Anyhow taking advantage of a wet Sunday, I think I made some progress with old photos from June & July.

In June the Wall Daisies had a lot of these small, orange-bellied solitary bees.  Looking at photos and the guide, I think they can be identified as Patchwork Leaf-cutter Bee (#181), thanks to the extent of orange towards the tail segments. 

The other bee also from June on White Bryony flowers also seems to be a solitary bee.  Based on the amount of hair on the body and leg colour I reckon  it's Yellow-legged Mining Bee (#309).

There's a few other microEden mysteries I need to solve, I'm glad to have worked at least some of them out.