A bee’s life is not just busy, worse still all that hard work can turn out to be in vain, as I saw today, there is always someone out for a free ride.
As it was warm and sunny today I decided to check out a sand face that had lots of nesting solitary bees and try out the new “Field Guide to the Bees”, published last autumn. It was easy to see there were lots of bees and several species. The most frequent were the yellow-legged mining bee Adrena flavipes (or at least that is the conclusion I came to).
These bees nest alone, in that each female has her own nest in which she makes cells, into which she lays an egg and provides a store of pollen for the grub. Bees that live like this are known as “Solitary bees”. These nests are often close together though so you get lots of solitary bees in one place. They collect the pollen using the long yellow hairs on their legs that give them their English name.
Not all bees are so busy though, some hitch a ride by parasitizing the nests of others. These parasites mostly look like wasps, often being yellow and black. One such lays its eggs in the nests of the yellow-legged mining bee. They fly up and down the sand face looking for nests that are unattended. In this case the parasite was a species called the painted nomad bee Nomada fucata (again if I have identified it correctly).
From time to time they will alight and go down a hole to check it out. Sometimes though, they could see that a nest was occupied then the tactic seemed to be to settle beside it and wait.
Once the rightful occupant leaves, the parasite ducks in to lay an egg in an open cell. When it hatches the nomad bee’s grub uses its large jaws to kill the mining bee’s larva and then it grows by eating the pollen store provided by the female mining bee. Her business done she emerges to find another unoccupied nest with cells at just the right stage.
In fact things are even worse for the mining bees as they are also parasitized by bee-flies, which were also present in numbers scattering their eggs outside the bee’s nests.
Elsewhere on the reserve things were fairly quite, but over Ibsley Water the number of common tern had grown to at least 10. They seem to be feeding on emerging insects, picking them off the surface just like the first summer little gull, which was still present. I mentioned to someone that things were ideal for black tern, which mainly feed on insects over water and as I locked up there was one looking very splendid in full breeding plumage, always a treat to see.
At the Woodland hide I saw only one brambling today, a very smart male, I cannot think he will be with us for much longer.