Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Hairy-footed flower bee

This was a surprise.  The hairy-footed flower bee (Anthophora plumipes) Is mainly found in the south of England, where it is a common solitary bee at this time of year.  I noticed a group of all black bees, looking like small bumblebees, in the walled garden at The Alnwick Garden.  They all had yellow or orange back legs, although some were carrying pollen, and they were being chased by smaller, brown-coloured bees.  I took a few photos (difficult as they move so fast) and when I got home was able to confirm that these were hairy-footed flower bees.  The Alnwick population has been noted recently and seems to be a northern outlier compared with the normal range of this bee.

This is the female who is all black apart from orange back legs which look yellow when carrying pollen.

And this is the male who is smaller and has white facial hairs like many male solitary bees.

Here you can see why it is called the hairy-footed flower bee (hairy-legged might be more accurate).

Hairy-footed flower bees have a louder and higher-pitched buzz than bumblebees and move noticeably faster when foraging.  They usually nest in old walls but also in cliffs and banks.  They have long tongues and prefer deep-throated flowers such as pulmonaria (lungwort) as seen here in Alnwick.

For really good pictures of the hairy-footed flower bee see Ed Phillips' photos here and Stephen Falk's photos here.

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