Bee you old or bee you new – I bee happy!

Today has been the warmest day of the year so far with temps touching 17 degrees (well, that’s what it said in my car!). I decided to look a little further afield than my garden (that has very few flowering plants at the moment – something that needs rectifying) and visited the old churchyard in the village looking for bees.

Andrena flavipes or Yellow legged mining bee (female)

Surrounded by a tall native hedge with the grave stones covered in flowering Lesser celandine it seemed a good place to start my hunt. I walked slowly along the grassy bank examining each flower head but it wasn’t until I reached the end of the bank, where a small patch of daffodils were growing, that I spotted my first new bee perched on one of the daff petals.

The Andrena flavipes (or Yellow legged mining bee) is a bit of a stunner. With broad light coloured stripes of hair on its abdomen, and the yellow/orange pollen hairs on the hind tibia, it certainly stands out from other bees. It’s a medium sized bee and this female certainly wasn’t worried about me – as I photographed her basking and posing in the late afternoon sun.

Andrena flavipes or Yellow legged mining bee (female)

Next up is still a bit of a mystery. While watching the A. flavipes I could see several small bees patrolling an area which included the daffs, a patch of celandines and the end of the hedge. Round and round they went. Hardly stopping for breath. Every now and then one of them would stop for a brief respite on the daffs and I hastely took a few photos. It’s definitely a male and probably another Andrena species, but which one is still a bit of a mystery!

Mystery male Solitary bee

Last bee of the day was a species I’ve seen at a few locations in the last few weeks, including my local garden centre and my garden. It’s another new-bee to me and very beautiful. The Andrena clarkella (this one’s a female) doesn’t have a common name. If anyone can think of a good name for a bee with a shiny black abdomen and foxy-brown thorax, let me know!

Andrena clarkella (female)

Yesterday I followed up a bee-tip-off from my friend Andy and visited our nearby stately home, Kingston Lacy, a National Trust house and gardens on the outskirts of Wimborne – just a couple of miles up the road. Andy had emailed me to say that he’d seen bees (but wasn’t sure what kind) in the wall of the shop (housed in one of the house outbuildings).

Anthophora plumipes or Hairy footed Flower bee (male)

I could hear the buzzing from 20ft away and sure enough patrolling the hole-ridden mortared brick wall were about twenty Anthophora plumipes (the hairy-footed Flower-bee). When a few females appeared they were instantly pounced on by about six or seven ginger males and a manic chase ensued until the black bodied females made a dive for the holes in the wall and disappeared from view. I could have watched them all day – but sadly I had to get home to do some work!

A. plumipes disappearing into a hole (female)

Luckily I’ve seen male A. plumipes in my garden feeding on Red deadnettle and a new Pulmonaria (that I only bought on Sunday!), so I’m hoping that a female will turn up soon as well! I wonder if they are nesting in our walls? Maybe it’s time to visit the garden centre again and stock up on some more flowering plants… the Pussy willows are very “in” with the bees at the moment. I feel a buying spree coming on.

A. plumipes coming into land on the new Pulmonaria (male)


10 thoughts on “Bee you old or bee you new – I bee happy!

  1. Great post Jane, you are so lucky! I’ve never seen A. plumipes nesting. I must check walls. I’ve had pratrolling males since the 11th of March and the first female on the 21st (Monday). Other than Pulmonaria they love wild primroses, which I have now established in the garden. They are so much more beautiful than the ones in florists. Comfrey is another magnet for them. I saw the first Andrena fulva female yesterday, but andrena males can be frustrating when they patrol as they never stop!

    • Thanks Blackbird! Yes, I’m now checking every wall I walk past. The one at Kingston Lacy had particularly soft mortar and I believe they are also partial to cob walls. The hunt for more continues!

  2. Do you have a book or website you use to identify the bees?

    Beautiful shots! I haven’t seen a whole lot of bees here yet, but I suspect when more wildflowers open we will!

  3. You have a blog! Glad I found you here via Solitary Bees blog. It is so good to have the bees flying again. It seems like it was a long winter. Great pictures Jane.

    • Thank you! You can say that again… didn’t realise how much I had missed looking for them… building a bee hotel this weekend in anticipation!

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