This is a photo of a bee having a good guzzle from a red deadnettle. The bee looks particularly furry and indeed it is, but what is most impressive is the length of the hairs … on its legs. Especially its knees.
It is in fact called the Hairy-footed Flower Bee (Anthophora plumipes) and yes, the feet are covered in long hairs too. However, it is the knee hair that wins it for me. These amazing hairs appear on the middle legs of the males.
Here is another view of a male hairy-footed flower bee against the paler background of a primrose, which shows up the hairs quite well:
This species is an important pollinator for early spring flowers blooming now, particularly lungworts (Pulmonaria species), but also primrose, comfrey and dead-nettles. In our garden they also can be seen visiting flowering currant and forget-me-not.
The male bees emerge first, from late February to March, followed by the females a couple of weeks later. Female hairy-footed flower bees are very different to the males, being largely black except for orange/red hairs on their hind legs. I have no photos of the females since they seem particularly flighty, dodging and moving very quickly. Far too quickly for me at any rate! So here is a link to compare the two sexes.
As a species they are very good at hovering and the males tend to patrol flower patches in search of females, chasing others (insects) away from their territory. This happens frequently over a patch of deadnettles growing in one of our unweeded vegetable beds (I am specifically leaving two beds uncleared, for as long as possible, for these bees).
You may have noticed that the males have cream markings over their faces (e.g. in the previous photo). This distinguishes them from other bumblebees. I tried to take a photo to show this, but sadly it is not of brilliant quality:
Hopefully, you see what I mean though.
This one as it is a bit clearer perhaps, even though it is not directly face on:
This week has seen a surge in numbers of these bees in our garden, although it might possibly be because I am now in our home garden all the time! In any case, if you are stuck at home now, as most of us are, it is worth keeping an eye out for these cute bees.
Happy bee spotting!