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…

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PAINTED LADY BUTTERFLIES IN DORSET: FIRST SIGHTING


Midsummer’s Day is usually the first day I begin to notice painted lady butterflies in our Dorset garden. They have probably been around for a few days before then without my noticing them. So when I actually start to look out for them to test the robustness of my ‘Midsummer’s Day’ theory for the ‘first’ ones, I am in fact working with a flawed self-fulfilling hypothesis. It worked again this year, as usual… And as so often these days I only had an iPh@ne with me to record the success, with unspectacular but tolerable results.

PAINTED LADY, DORSET 1PAINTED LADY, DORSET 5PAINTED LADY, DORSET 4PAINTED LADY, DORSET 3PAINTED LADY, DORSET 2

I was hoping to get an underwing shot, but no luck. So I have plundered Wiki to get one

Painted Lady Butterfly underwings (wiki)

All photo except the last, RH with an iPhone

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

COMMON BLUE BUTTERFLY, DORSET


These exceptionally pretty little butterflies were prolific in the garden in late July and early August. However an autumnal chill arrived around the 18th. A few remained, but I saw only one or two last week. 

Common Blue Butterfly, Dorset 1Common Blue Butterfly, Dorset 2 Common Blue Butterfly, Dorset 3 Common Blue Butterfly, Dorset 4 Common Blue Butterfly, Dorset 5 Common Blue Butterfly, Dorset 6

SKIPPERS (NON-NAUTICAL) IN DORSET


Two skippers taken recently in Dorset, before the rains came. Then, as the rain has poured over the garden, so I have pored over my ‘Dummy’s Guide to Lepidoptera’ to work out what type of skipper this is. Or should I say, ‘these are’, because although the photos are not particularly good, these two creatures look different to me. But that could just be the angle of the “sun”, whatever that was.  Any hints from those kind enough to glance at this woefully under-curated ‘side-project’ blog would be welcome!

STOP PRESS Mike Kelly has been kind enough to leave this comment about these two skipper species:  the first one  “…COULD be Essex Skipper, the antenna tips are not clear enough to be certain. The 3 below are Small Skipper”.

Skipper Butterfly, Dorset Skipper Butterfly, Dorset Skipper Butterfly, Dorset

The same type of skipper? Or another, maybe? [PS A Small Skipper – see above]

Skipper Butterfly, DorsetSkipper Butterfly, Dorset Skipper Butterfly, Dorset

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

SUMMER BEES IN A DORSET GARDEN (2)


RED-TAILED BUMBLEBEES (BOMBUS LAPIDARIUS)

Classic view, feeding on hyssopRed-tailed Bumblebee Bombus lapidarius, Dorset (Keith Salvesen)

This bee has a fair-sized mite on its backRed-tailed Bumblebee Bombus lapidarius, Dorset (Keith Salvesen)

A frankly rather indelicate shot – somehow the light produced this extraordinary colouring of the ‘tail’Red-tailed Bumblebee Bombus lapidarius, Dorset (Keith Salvesen)