Beeing in the Garden

Yesterday I spent much of the day beeing in the garden, by which I mean looking for and at the many types of bees that make their way into the garden. I do get a few honey-bees but not many and this is actually a good thing fro all the other species of bees, many of which can find themselves getting out-competed by large numbers of hive bees in some areas.

There a lot of solitary bees, something well over 200 species in the UK in fact¬† and spring is a good time to look for them. Although they are solitary, in that each female has her own nest, there can be lots of nests very close together, so you might find a nesting aggregation of hundreds of solitary bees, sometimes of several different species. Lots of them nest in tunnels in the ground, so a good place to look is where the ground is loose enough for a bee to dig a tunnel, old sand pits are a favourite. Several other species nest in hollow stems or old beetle tunnels in wood, so you can mimic this by drilling holes in a block of wood and making a “bee hotel”.

One of the common spring species is the tawny mining bee.

tawny mining bee

tawny mining bee

Some species are very, very small, in fact some are known as “mini-miners”. Others are tiny and brightly coloured like the “Blood bees” these are rather difficult to identify to species level.

blood bee 2

blood bee

Others are more familiar and much larger, the bumble bees, although there are rather few species they are not necessarily straightforward to identify. This is one of the easier ones, the garden bumble bee, appropriately enough as I found it in my garden.

garden bumble bee

garden bumble bee

Some of them would probably be passed over as wasps as they are mainly black and yellow, these are the Nomad bees and they are parasites of other solitary bees, often of just one species.

Nomada 5

Nomada goodeniana – Gooden’s nomad bee

Nomada 3

Nomada leucophthalma – the early nomad bee

Nomada 2

Nomad bee (I have not identified this one yet)

As you can see they are all similar, but slightly different.

Of course when you start looking for one thing you start seeing others. I can across several small spiders including these two jumping spiders.

Heliophanus flavipes

Heliophanus flavipes

They are fierce hunters for their size, creeping up on their prey and using their many eyes and excellent binocular vision to judge a jump to capture their prey. The one above is not rare, but not seen nearly as often as the zebra jumping spider, which often hunts on walls and fences as w ell as vegetation.

zebra spider with hoverfly prey

zebra spider with hoverfly prey

I also saw several large red damselfly, much earlier than last year when I barely saw one before May.

large red damselfly

large red damselfly

30 Days Wild – Day 17: Lepe and a Jumper

A day off and mostly spent in the garden, I had intended to do some work but it was too hot to do very much. It was even too hot for most insects apart from bees. I did see a very few butterflies, two meadow brown and single, rather worn, male common blue.

common blue

A slightly tatty male common blue.

My pond is dropping fast, it is only shallow with very sloping sides meaning it has a large surface area relative to volume. I fill it from water collected off the roof, but in this weather it does not last long. Despite not having much water it still attracted a male keeled skimmer, which stayed for several hours.

keeled skimmer

male keeled skimmer

In the evening we headed down to Lepe Country Park to enjoy the sea breeze. Many years ago I used to manage this site when I worked for Hampshire County Council. It has changed a bit since then. The sea defences I put in to the east of the lower car park have finally been abandoned. On the cliff top, the meadow area behind the car park has developed from the deep ploughed cereal field that we took over and seeded, to a really successful flower-rich grassland divided with hedges that provide shelter and cover for nesting birds.

Despite the beach being small and very popular it still has sea kale and yellow-horned poppy, two plants typical of shingle beaches and usually the less disturbed ones.

yellow-horned poppy

yellow-horned poppy

Walking east to the Mulberry Harbour casson construction site I looked for the broad-leaved heleborines that used to grow straight out of the shingle, I found one very large plant hard against the brick wall.

broad-leaved heleborine

broad-leaved heleborine

I was also pleased to find several little robin plants at the very far eastern end, this smaller relative of the common herb Robert is a bit of a Solent coast speciality.

little robin

little robin

I was also searching the shingle, as many years ago I found a jumping spider here that was a new record for Hampshire, however all I could find was a few of the common zebra spider.

zebra spider

zebra spider

They may be common but I can spend a lot of time watching these spiders as they stalk their prey, they are formidable predators at their own tiny scale.