Spring Bees

This is a place where I’m hoping to keep a diary of the bees on ‘Bee Alley’ a stretch of footpath I’ve nicknamed because the succession of spring emerging bees seems to present me with a new species each lunchtime when I take a walk out.

21st March 2017

The green alkanet has just begun to flower properly with white dead nettle beginning to emerge. Other species in flower include common chickweed and ivy-leaved speedwell, as well as a stray grape hyacinth which has managed to establish itself. There is a good leaf layer of nettle and cow parsley – neither in flower yet – with the ivy covering the back fence. A few small patches of ground ivy flowering very low to the ground.

Several male feather-footed flower bees – Anthophora plumipes – patrolling and chasing each other along the vegetation along with the occasional female who was subject to rather unwanted looking attention from one of the males!

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23rd March 2017

No signs of females today but still plenty of male feather-footed flower bees. Cloudy and so the bees were slower than their frantic patrolling in the sunshine the previous visit – pausing frequently to rest upon the cow parsley leaves whilst foraging on the green alkanet.

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Also noted were red-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius) and buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) queens on the ivy against the back fence which presumably was one of the warmer places to be, despite the lack of sun.

March 28th 2017

No new bees but the first appearance of the bee flies – Bombylis major. The afternoon was sunny and they were spending short periods foraging on the green alkanet before returning down to sunnier spots on falled leaves as well as the cow parsley foliage to bask.

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30th March 2017

Dandelions appear to have begun their spring flush with a number in flower along the pathway with more growing at the base of the wall beside the adjacent road. Plenty of carder bumblebees (Bombus pascuorum) foraging on green alkanet and white dead nettle with tree bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum) queens also noted.

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First sighting of a mining bee – possibly the hawthorn mining bee Andrena crysosceles – basking on the leaves of the alkanet when I first arrived.

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Two species of furrow bee – Lassioglossum sp. were present – one was larger and primarily foraging on pollen-covered dandelions along with common chickweed.

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The other Lassioglossum sp. was smaller and one of the ‘four metalic species’ according to Steven Falk’s advice on twitter – difficult to get closer to a species ID without a sample and very hard to get a good clear photograph of such a small bee.

To cap off a busy visit, the first sighting of a nomad bee – Nomada sp. – alongside the solitary bees. Currently working on whether an ID can be hazarded for this beast!

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3rd April 2017

Two new species recorded today – the first was within steps of entering the footpath, this stunning early mining bee – Andrena haemorrhoa. It was resting on the alkanet leaves and flew off shortly afterwards, not to be seen again.

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I caught sight of a few tawny mining bees – Andrena fulva – foraging on the blackthorn up near the cemetary and onto the Hills and Hollows, but found one basking in the sunshine on the walk back down through Bee Alley – again leaving before visiting any of the flowers.

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No new species in flower but the fiddleneck (Amsinckia micrantha) has started to develop the characteristic curl as individual yellow flowers turn into heads, and there are good displays of dandelion, daisy and field speedwell within the cemetary. Close to the fiddleneck is another member of the borage family – wood forget-me-not – in flower now too. Only seen beeflies foraging on this flower to date.

5th April 2017

At least 3-4 red mason bees – Osmia bicornis – patrolling and foraging exclusively on the green alkanet flowers, occasionally coming to a rest and basking on the leaves, especially in brief moments when the sun passed behind the clouds. They seemed eager to get into arguments with other pollinators, including bee flies when they encountered them on the wing.

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Good numbers of carder bumblebees, including smaller workers, foraging on the alkanet and deadnettle. Many feather-footed flower bees still patrolling with 3 males all hovering and attempting to mate with the same female at one point. The bee fly numbers appear to be increasing, with a range of different sized insects on the wing.

One further nomad bee briefly sighted – this appeared to be different to the previous individual photographed a few days earlier.

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Several of the Lassioglossum species also noted, predominantly foraging on the green alkanet with some visiting chickweed flowers also.

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