All the better to … reach the nectar. Take a look at the length of this tongue for instance:
This is the Hairy-footed flower bee (Anthophora plumipes) and is a new bee to me this spring. That is not quite true, because I have a record of seeing a male A. plumipes with its long-fringed middle legs and hairy feet last year, but if I hadn’t been sitting on the grass next to it, looking very closely, then I probably wouldn’t have spotted it. I certainly didn’t see its tongue. The female bee is very different to look at. It is slightly larger and has a completely black body. I’ve never noticed before a UK black bee before. The Hairy-footed flower bee is one of the first solitary bees to emerge in spring and is particularly partial to lungworts, which you can see they can access easily with their long tongues:
Here is a better shot showing just how black and plump they are,
except for orange/red hairs on their hind legs (below), which after mating are used to gather pollen (above) to take back to the nest cells.
They are also fond of primroses, comfrey and dead-nettles.
Given how many I’ve seen this year, I am not sure how I’ve missed them before. Maybe it is a case of once you’ve noticed something, you see them everywhere. Both male and female bees have a very quick, darting flying pattern, so they always seem to be moving away. They are hard to photograph as even their supping is abrupt!
Also out and about now (its active season is Apr-Jun), with a conspicuous rigid, long proboscis is the Bee fly (Bombylius major). It is a bee mimic whose larvae prey on the grubs of solitary bees and wasps. It redeems itself somewhat by being an excellent pollinator.
Another bee that I’ve noticed for the first time this year is the Tawny Mining Bee (Andrena fulva). They are apparently one of our most recognisable spring-flying solitary bees (that told me!). Indeed, I can hardly believe how dramatically orange they are. This one was enjoying a visit to the crab apple tree earlier this week.
I managed to catch a shot of one in some direct sunlight, which really shows how glorious that colour is. This is a female, since the red/orange colouring is much less pronounced in the male.
The aforementioned bee-fly is a well known parasitoid of Tawny Mining Bees. 😦
We’ve got a couple flowering currant bushes in the front garden and they are always bee magnets, especially to bumblebees. I spotted this giant Tree bumblebee on one while I was chasing down the hairy-footed bees. The Tree bumblebee or new Garden bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum) was first seen in Britain (Wiltshire) in 2001, but is has done well and is now established itself in many parts.
I couldn’t finish talking about bees without a shout-out to the honey bees buzzing about the crab apple tree in large numbers. Thanks little bees, I am looking forward to the fruits of your labour!
And speaking of great pollinators, even though I am not a big fan of wasps, I like this shot of a common wasp (Vespula vulgaris) with its head stuffed into a euphorbia flower
I got to wondering whether it was actually an ordinary wasp because of the green tinge on its body. In truth, I’ve not made made much effort to find out anything about wasps before, so I’ve looked them up and I can tell you that it is indeed V. vulgaris. You can tell from the anchor-shaped marking on its face:
Butterflies are also on the wing now. I noticed several buttery yellow Brimstones fluttering though the garden at the end of March, but my first butterfly actually stopping to sample the flowers in the garden was this Peacock butterfly on 5th April.
I am finishing this post with a couple of birds spots. I’ve been amused to watch magpies tearing a strip (literally) off the edge the weed suppressing membrane we’ve used on our pebble garden. The stones have settled a bit, revealing the liner’s cut edge. The magpies were quick to see this and are seriously shredding it for nesting material. I will need to do some tidying up of liner in the near future.
Since the magpies have been in the vicinity they have also made use of the fat ball feeder on the patio. It was a bit of a shock to look out of the kitchen window to see such a large bird suspended beneath the wisteria.
Finally, I note that the swallows arrived back in our area around 12th April, that’s very slightly later than last year,
but I have to say that it is lovely to once again gardening to their twittering background soundtrack.
I am linking this post to Tina’s monthly wildlife report @mygardenersays. Take a look if your are curious about nature in our backyards around the globe.