On grey and gloomy autumn days, it’s always cheering to see the bumblebees still out and about, even if sometimes they’re actually snoozing on their chosen flowers.
Despite the appalling weather – frequent heavy rain and occasional strong winds – we’ve been experiencing over the last couple of weeks, I have managed still to find a few hardy insects, persisting by cunningly finding sheltered places to avoid the worst of the inclement conditions.
These bees seem to have the right idea. On the left is a Buff-tailed bumblebee, which I watched emerging from inside the cosy, fluffy duvet of an Old man’s beard seedhead and, on the right, a Common carder that seems to have the same idea and be looking for a place to snuggle down.
Also looking cosy, these Common earwigs were huddling in the cups of umbellifer seedheads.
Common darters have still been active in the more sheltered spots during the occasional sunny periods, these at Cosmeston Lakes Country Park.
The last of this year’s brood of Ivy bees were still feeding their grubs. They had made use of a rabbit scrape to excavate the underground burrows where their eggs are laid, grubs hatch and pupate and will remain until emerging as adult bees next autumn.
bees on scabious, Bombus pascuorum, Bombus terrestris, British bees, British wildflowers, Buff-tailed bumblebee, Bull-headed furrow bee, Common carder bee, Devil's-bit scabious, Lasioglossum leucozonium, Lasioglossum zonulum, Megachile ligniseca, White-zoned furrow bee, Wood-carving leafcutter bee
In recent weeks, when the weather has been fine and the air relatively still, I’ve been spending time searching the Devil’s-bit scabious for bees. Not just any bees, but four scarce and endangered bees. This is part of Buglife’s ‘Searching for Scabious’ project, which
aims to improve our understanding of the distribution and conservation status of some of Wales’ rarest and most threatened solitary bees – the Large Scabious Mining Bee (Andrena hattorfiana) and its associated cuckoo, the Armed nomad bee (Nomada armata), and Small Scabious Mining Bee (Andrena marginata) and its cuckoo, the Silver-sided nomad bee (Nomada argentata).
I wasn’t familiar with these bees and am not very good at bee identification in general but Liam Olds, Buglife’s local conservation officer, has put together an excellent explainer video, which can be accessed on YouTube, so I thought I’d join the search.
Unfortunately, I haven’t managed to find any of the scarce bees at the two local sites where Devil’s-bit scabious grows in abundance (and neither has Liam, which was reassuring for me re my search skills but bad news for the bees). The bees I did find most commonly were the appropriately named Common carder (Bombus pascuorum) (below, left) and the Buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) (below, right).
Liam very kindly helped to identify the other small bees I found. These lovely little furrow bees are either the White-zoned furrow bee (Lasioglossum leucozonium) or the Bull-headed furrow bee (Lasioglossum zonulum) – the two species are too similar to tell them apart without closer examination.
I also found several of these more distinctive individuals, the Wood-carving leafcutter bee (Megachile ligniseca). You can find out more about them, and watch a little video of their nest-building skills, on the BWARS website. Meantime, I’m heading back to the scabious for another look.
This photo was actually taken yesterday because, being the occasional numpty that I am, I didn’t take my camera with me when I went out for a stroll and some groceries this afternoon, after the rain had cleared. The bee is a Common carder (Bombus pascuorum) but I’m not sure about the geranium. Although it’s growing beneath a hedgerow in a rural lane, I think it’s a garden escape, as its description doesn’t fit with the native geraniums in my plant book. Whatever it is, it’s obviously tasty … if you’re a bee.