MEGACHILE CENTUNCULARIS: LEAF-CUTTER BEES IN DORSET


Bee box on a wall, Dorset

This is the first year that leaf-cutter bees have discovered the bee box placed invitingly on a south-facing wall – and only in the last month. Or maybe they had and didn’t like the box. Or the other occupants. Anyway, quite soon they had tenanted the remaining holes in the prestige penthouse log. Bee box with leaf-cutter bees, Dorset

Last week, the LCBs were quite active, so from time to time I watched them. The first one was completing its work in the top-right log on the lower storey. Having packed in the leaves, it spent quite some time perfecting the job, leaving a smooth end to the bright green plug.

Bee box with leaf-cutter bees, DorsetBee box with leaf-cutter bees, Dorset

Bee box with leaf-cutter bees, DorsetBee box with leaf-cutter bees, Dorset

Later on I saw a bee engaged in an earlier stage of construction. It chose the same log, and initially went for the middle hole, disappearing with a strip of leaf. It then revised its accommodation plans, reversed out with the leaf and took it to the adjacent hole.

Bee box with leaf-cutter bees, DorsetBee box with leaf-cutter bees, Dorset

Bee box with leaf-cutter bees, DorsetBee box with leaf-cutter bees, Dorset

I found the bees surprisingly difficult to photograph. I had to change cameras to a ‘faster’ one, because a bee would zoom back to the hole with its leaf and dive straight in, dragging the leaf behind it; and emerge suddenly and fly off at speed. Sometimes there was a struggle to get the leaf into the hole, which helped take a shot; or I could see the bee pause in the dark but quite close to the entrance before flying off. But mostly, the comings and goings took me by surprise every time, even though I was ready for them…

Bee box with leaf-cutter bees, DorsetBee box with leaf-cutter bees, Dorset

I checked the plants in the vicinity for the tell-tale semi-circles cut out of the leaves. They seem to have liked a nearby rose and another plant whose name I forget (if I ever knew). They use saliva to glue the cuttings together to build the cells for their larvae. The larvae have a safe place to hatch and develop. They pupate in the autumn and hibernate during the winter. Now that the leaf-cutters have found the box, we are hoping that next year the new generation will go through the whole process again. And that I will be more handy with the camera.

NOTE: I see that these bees are often called Leafcutter bees, or Leaf Cutter bees, whereas I have plumped for a hyphen. I’m going (having retrospectively checked) with the Natural History Museum’s version…

Advertisements

THE HONEY BEE & THE DAHLIA: LATE SEPTEMBER SUNSHINE


This honey bee was making the most of the late September sunshine. The colour of its pollen load suggests it had decided to target the dahlias. It managed to get a good all-over dusting too. 

Late honey bee and dahlia1Late honey bee and dahlia2 Late honey bee and dahlia3 Late honey bee and dahlia4 Late honey bee and dahlia6 Late honey bee and dahlia7 Late honey bee and dahlia8 Late honey bee and dahlia9

BEES GOING ABOUT THEIR BUSINESS (1)


Dorset honey bee in flightDorset honey bee on HyssopDorset honey bee on HyssopDorset honey bee on HyssopDorset honey bee on HyssopDorset honey bee on HyssopDorset Honeybee on HyssopDorset Honey bee on runner bean flower

WHITE-TAILED BUMBLEBEES, DORSET


Whitchurch Canonicorum, Blandford Forum, Toller Porcorum and Bombus Lucorum – all very Dorset names.  Except the last of course. Here are a few of them, feasting on hyssop. The first one is launching himself on his way to the next stem.

White-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lucorum), DorsetWhite-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lucorum), DorsetWhite-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lucorum), DorsetWhite-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lucorum), DorsetWhite-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lucorum), DorsetWhite-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lucorum), DorsetWhite-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lucorum), Dorset

A SELECTION OF SUMMER BEES IN DORSET


This is a small selection of bees visiting a Dorset garden during the last month or so. The favoured flowers have been Hyssop, Lavender, Alium and Cosmos. And if anyone knows the name of the pale bee in photo #4, I’d be pleased to know – it’s a real beauty.

Summer Bees Dorset 1Summer Bees Dorset 2Summer Bees Dorset 3Summer Bees Dorset 4Summer Bees Dorset 5Summer Bees Dorset 6Summer Bees Dorset 8Summer Bees Dorset 9Summer Bees Dorset 10Summer Bees Dorset 11

A POPULAR POPPY WITH SMALL BEES Romneya coulteri


Small Bees at Oxburgh 1

TREE POPPY Romneya coulteri

This plant at Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk was a magnet for small bees. We watched them come and go, filling up their little saddlebags. Photos of bees in flight don’t often work well. These are no exception. Still, they do catch the general bizzyness of the proceedings. The plant was lovely, not one we knew. Another new bee plant find for the year, along with Hyssop.

Small Bees at Oxburgh 2 Small Bees at Oxburgh 3 Small Bees at Oxburgh 4 Small Bees at Oxburgh 5 Small Bees at Oxburgh 6 Small Bees at Oxburgh 7White Poppy with Bees 7

“HONEY RUSH” – LAST ORDERS IN THE SEASON’S FLORAL SALOON


The bees are working overtime as a chill spreads over September and winter downtime looms for them. So busy are they that there is competition for individual flowers  – even though there are more than enough to go round. Bumbles were out in force yesterday, and there are still butterflies around, mainly tiny Small Coppers and Whites of different sizes.

We’ve done a quick assessment of plant popularity this spring and summer that produces this league table:

  1. Hyssop – the runaway winner for bees of many types, ditto butterflies and (new entry) moths. Planted for the first time in May, and has effortlessly thrived (throve? thriven?) to become Nectar Central.
  2. Lavender – perennial success with bees and butterflies. More planted this spring and very well visited.
  3. Cosmos – new to the garden this year, a fast and easy grower, and hugely popular with bees, especially bumbles. Also visited by honey bees and butterflies, but only on their way the the hyssop.

Bees in Dorset Summer's End 1 Bees in Dorset Summer's End 2 Bees in Dorset Summer's End 3 Bees in Dorset Summer's End 4 Bees in Dorset Summer's End 5 Bees in Dorset Summer's End 6 Bees in Dorset Summer's End 8 Bees in Dorset Summer's End 9Blurry, I know, but the intruder arrived from nowhere as I pressed the button… Why it didn’t land on one of several vacant flowers next to this one, I have no idea. Maybe fighting drunk on pollen?Bees in Dorset Summer's End 7