Monday 25 December 2023

Wildlife Review 2023: Bees

A record total of 55 bee species, including five new for the Warren were recorded this year, beating but not including all the species from the previous high of 50 in 2022. 

The year started as has become expected with varying numbers of winter active Buff-tailed Bumblebee Bombus terrestris foraging on ornamental Hebe in early January, although it wasn't until early March that hibernating queens were on the wing. The first Garden Bumblebee B. hortorum of the year was nectaring on Red Dead-nettle on 28th February, with a queen Red-tailed Bumblebee B. lapidarius active on 30th March. Common Carder Bee B. pascuorum appeared from 1st April, with Tree Bumblebee B. hypnorum on 2nd and Early Bumblebee B. praetorum from 6th. The year's only Heath Bumblebee B. jonellus was recorded on 20th May. 

Common Carder Bee - Alan Keatley

It turned out to be a mixed year for bumblebees; Buff-tailed and Common Carder fared well, but there were far fewer sightings of Red-tailed, and especially, Tree this year and surprisingly no reports of any cuckoo bumblebees.

The first solitary bee of the year was, not unexpectedly, Yellow-legged Mining Bee Andrena flavipes from 14th February, taking advantage of early flowering Alexanders. Also attracted to the Alexanders were Buffish Mining Bee A. nigroaenea from 7th March. Blossoming willows held the first of this year's new bee species with a colony of Small Sallow Mining Bee A. praecox found in the Entrance Bushes on 25th March. 

Small Sallow Mining Bee - Alan Keatley

This was quickly followed by the second new discovery; a Cliff Mining Bee A. thoracica on the Back Path on 30th. This common coastal species had until now seemingly avoided the Recording Area.

Cliff Mining Bee - Alan Keatley
Into April and the peak time for spring mining bees, with Orange-tailed Andrena haemorrhoa on the wing from 10th, Gwynne's A. bicolor from 13th and Sandpit A. barbilabris and Common Mini-miner A. minutula from the 18th. Chocolate A. scotica and the nationally scarce Black Mining Bee A. pilipes emerged from 20th, with Short-fringed A. dorsata on 25th. The final spring mining bees to be recorded were Grey-patched A. nitida and unusually late, Ashy A. cineria on 7th May.
The first furrow bee of the year was a Furry-claspered Lasioglossum lativentre on the unexpectedly early date of 14th February, most did not appear until over a month later. Green Furrow Bee L. morio were active at their Langstone Rock colony from 7th April, whilst in the flower meadows, Bronze Furrow Bee Halictus tumulorum were active from 15th May, Common Furrow Bee L. calceatum were sighted from 24th June and White-zoned L. leucozonium from 25th July. 

Bronze Furrow Bee - Alan Keatley
The spring flying Hairy-footed Flower Bee Anthophora plumipes were on the wing from 2nd April, with the hyperactive Little Flower Bee A. bimaculata often numerous from 11th June. A further new species for the Recording Area was Common Mourning Bee Melecta albifrons on 7th April, a cuckoo of the Hairy-footed Flower Bee

Hairy-footed Flower Bee - Alan Keatley
Other cuckoo bees are not uncommon on site with a variety of species seeking out their hosts. Painted Nomad Bee Nomada furcata were lurking around Yellow-legged Mining Bee colonies from 10th April, Gooden's Nomad Bee N. goodeniana were sighted from 15th seeking out various spring mining bees, with first of many Flavous Nomad Bee N. flava doing the same from 20th. May started with the first Marsham's Nomad Bee N. marshamella and a new nomad for site was the Little Nomad Bee N. flavoguttata found on 18th May; this is a cuckoo of Common Mini-miner.

Flavous Nomad Bee - Alan Keatley
Blood bees, as the name suggests, are another family of cuckoo bees. Sandpit Blood Bee Sphecodes pellucidus which targets Sandpit Mining Bee is the most frequently recorded; the first were found alongside Box-headed Blood Bee S. monilicornis, nectaring on umbellifers on 3rd June. The fifth new bee this year was a Geoffroy's Blood Bee S. geoffrellus found near to its hosts Green Furrow Bee Langstone Rock colony on 3rd July. As notable was the first site record of a Sickle-jawed Blood Bee S. puncticeps since 1969 was found on 3rd October. 

Geoffroy's Blood Bee - Alan Keatley

The black and white sharp-tailed bees are cuckoos of leafcutter bees. Shiny-vented Sharp-tail Coelioxys inermis was seen investigating nest holes from 20th May and Large Sharp-tail C. conoidea were active from 3rd June. cuckoo bee of Colletes bees, the Black-thighed Epeolus E. variegatus was first seen nectaring in the flower meadows from 9th July.

Large Sharp-tail and Silvery Leafcutter - Alan Keatley

The first Colletes bee of the year was an early Bare-saddled Colletes similis on 30th May. They were followed Hairy-saddled C. fodiens recorded from 13th August, Heather C. succinctus from 16th August and finally Ivy Bee C. hederae from 12th September until 21st October.

Ivy Bee - Kevin Rylands
The regular three species of leafcutter bees were recorded, Silvery Megachile leachella and Coastal Leafcutter M. maritima from 1st June and 24th July respectively are the most frequent with Patchwork Leafcutter M. centuncularis around their only know aggregation from 18th July.

Coastal Leafcutter - Alan Keatley

Other species recorded included this year were Red Mason Bee Osmia bicornis from 7th May, a lone Wool Carder Bee Anthidium manicatum on 11th June, Pantaloon Bee Dasypoda hirtipes from 15th June, Common Yellow-faced Bee Hylaeus communis from 22nd June, Small Shaggy Bee Panurgus calcaratus on 27th June, Large Shaggy Bee P. banksianus on 18th July, and Short-horned Yellow-faced Bee H. brevicornis on 8th August.

Finally, feral Honey Bee Apis mellifera were almost ever present from the first on 19th January until mid-December, taking advantage to nectar and collect pollen on whatever plants were in flower.

Honey Bee - Alan Keatley

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