Bee confusion

Regarding my previous post (18th April) about Mason bees: Having seen a lot of similar-looking bees when I visited a branch library I don’t usually go to yesterday, I now think I may have misidentified them and that they are in fact Hairy Footed Flower bees.

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The Wiki entry says:

The females usually lay eggs in a nest equipped with cells excavated by themselves in clay slopes and steep walls of mud.

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The bees at the library were making holes in the earth of some raised flower beds which are being left uncultivated for their use. The bee using the hole in my wall could be an adventurous opportunist saving herself a lot of digging by using a pre-made hole!

I suppose it doesn’t really matter what kind of bee they are, the main thing is the pleasure I get from seeing them. And wondering whether and how bees classify non-bee creatures…

Given that my own use English is far from perfect it seems a bit churlish to mention that Hairy Footed Flower bees clearly aren’t “unique” to Goring Library, but it is a shame to see such misuse of words on a notice displayed at a library!

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Bees in the wall

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I was sitting in the sun planting primulas in a pot last April when I heard a cheeping sound nearby. A baby bird? Where? It sounded just like a peeping nestling, but eventually I realised that the noise was coming from the wall! It was a bee! Cheeping! And apparently digging a hole in the mortar! On the ground under the hole was a good teaspoonful of fresh mortar dust.

Naturally my interest was piqued so I popped indoors to consult my friend Google and deduced that it was a mason bee. The Wiki entry for mason bees says that they don’t excavate their nests, but the bees that occupied the hole in the picture this year and last have most definitely have deepened the hole and pushed the crumbled mortar out onto the step below. Once I started watching the bees I realised that there were perhaps half a dozen of them busy nearby.

It’s a great pleasure and privilege to be able to observe a wild creature at close quarters and I’m grateful that my neighbours are happy to share their home with bees. Sadly this year there have been fewer bees than last – at least one fell prey to a spider which built it’s sticky trap under the neighbour’s meter box. T destroyed the spider’s web when he saw a bee trapped in it, but who knows how many more of our lovely black bees the spider ate?

I tried really hard to catch a snap of the bee as she came out of the hole, but what you see above is the best I managed. It got a bit tiring standing in the hot sun with the camera poised, watching and listening for the sign that she was about to fly out. I mostly hit the shutter fractionally too late, but sometimes I was too quick. This is my best shot and you can just see that it’s a bee emerging from a hole in a wall. Can’t you?

The hole is several inches deep – I shone a torch in to get a good look. On one occasion I could see the gleaming lining of pollen and nectar. When the bee had finished laying her eggs she neatly walled them up with a mixture of tiny bits of leaf debris and mud. It was fascinating to see the bee nipping off bits of dried leaf and flying back to the nest with them. While I was watching she always flew out of the hole towards the north, whether this was because of some kind of instinct or because I was standing to the south I don’t know.

Thanks to Hunter’s Mason Bees for this useful article about the lifecycle of mason bees. Does anyone have bees in their walls? Or experience of using a manufactured bee box for solitary bees? I wonder if they actually get used or are just a gimmick for the gullible…