Categories

A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.

Red Mason Bee Sealing a Nest

This year I have a bee hotel attached to the house which provides somewhere for solitary bees to nest. The most commonly seen garden solitary bee is the red mason bee (Osmia bicornis) which finds cavities, such as in walls or canes in which to lay its eggs. It adds some pollen for food and seals up the cell with mud.

Yesterday I managed to catch a female red mason bee sealing off one of the tubes in the nest box and took some photos. They are not amazing photos, my main excuses being failing light and rubbish photography skills; I was also watering the garden and getting some washing in at the same time, etc etc. A selection of photos in chronological order are below, with the time taken in the caption.

In the first photo, you can see the female deep inside the tube.

17:10

Twenty minutes later the start of a wall is in place and the bee has gone off to get some more mud.

17:27

A few minutes later and she’s back constructing the wall.

17:29

Again she’s off, and there is now a complete ring.

17:29

Three minutes later and the ring is closing in.

17:32

17:32

The female is back with more mud.

17:33

Now the hole is clearly too small for her to get in or out.

17:34

More work…

17:42

…and the hole is sealed!

17:44

The bee continues to add more mud for a better seal.

17:56

The last photo is from over an hour later and shows the cap jutting out from the wall, not entirely neatly.

19:29

There are now six holes filled up in the bee hotel. I understand that each of the holes will have a number of cells, one in front of the other. Next spring, the small males, whose eggs are laid near the front, will hatch first, followed shortly by the larger females. There are hundreds of sorts of solitary bee in the UK, although only the larger ones will use the bee hotel. I saw some leaf-cutter bees, such as the one below, last year.

Leaf-cutter bee cutting a leaf

They use mashed-up leaf pulp instead of mud to do much the same thing, so I hope they might pop by too.

Bumblebees in Sandy, 2012

Following on from my other enthralling posts about grasshoppers and bush-crickets, here is one about bumblebees. I always used to think there were two sorts of bee: honey bees and bumblebees. I later thought there are two sorts of bumblebee: buff-tailed and red-tailed. However, it turns out that there are loads of bumblebees: about 25 species in the UK, although some of them are rare. Like the grasshoppers, bumblebees can be tricky to identify as they vary according to whether they are male or female or what kind of female they are: queen or worker. There are also considerable variations within species while some different species look the same as each other: see the first one below which is impossible to positively identify from a photo, or at least my photo. I got myself an excellent book recommended by Emily Heath* and submitted records to Beewatch, which has tools for identification as well as well as adding to national distribution data. Like the orthoptera scheme they also email you with confirmation of whether you got it right or not. I saw seven confirmed species of bumblebee in Bedfordshire over the summer, six of those in Sandy, and four in the garden.

I have followed the book’s practice of using the scientific name of each species as there is no consistency in common names. And it saves me some hassle. I have also noted whether each species is a social bumblebee (queen, workers, and males living in a nest a bit like a honey bee hive) or a cuckoo bumblebee (only females and males: the females take over social bumblebee nests whose workers raise the cuckoo female’s young). I never dreamt that such things as cuckoo bumblebees existed.

Bombus vestalis or Bombus bohemicus

Bombus vestalis or Bombus bohemicus

Bombus vestalis or Bombus bohemicus

A cuckoo bumblee, but uncertain precisely which species it is. These two species are very difficult to tell apart without catching them and examining them properly. From the photo, the Beewatch people could not be definite which it was. In Sandy, just off Sunderland Road.

Bombus pratorum

Bombus pratorum

Bombus pratorum

A social bumblebee. In Sandy, in the garden.

Bombus terrestris

Bombus terrestris

Bombus terrestris

The buff-tailed bumblebee, a social bumblebee. In Sandy, in the garden.

Bombus rupestris

Bombus rupestris

Bombus rupestris

A cuckoo bumblebee. In Sandy, near the station.

Bombus hypnorum

Bombus hypnorum

Bombus hypnorum

Tree bumblebee, a social bumblebee. First seen in the UK in 2001. In Sandy, in the garden.

Bombus campestris (probably)

Bombus campestris

Bombus campestris

A cuckoo bumblebee. In Willington (between Sandy and Bedford).

Bombus pascuorum

Bombus pascuorum

Bombus pascuorum

Bombus pascuorum male

Bombus pascuorum male

A social bumblebee. In Sandy, in the garden. Beewatch confirmed the first picture and I’m pretty sure about the id for the male (ginger beard and very round body), which makes it the first time I’ve seen a male bee and known it was a male.

* Edwards and Jenner. Field guide to the bumblebees of Great Britain & Ireland. 2005