Monday, 21 December 2015

What's that bee?

I have become increasingly fascinated by wild bees - solitary bees and bumblebees - over the past couple of years. There are 275 species in the British Isles and identifying them is a real challenge for the beginner.  Until now there has been no useful guide book so I have been using the BWARS (Bee, Wasp and Ant Recording Society) website and Steven Falk's Flickr site.  Now a Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland has just been published so I immediately bought myself a copy as a Christmas present (and opened it early!).

With 432 pages and nearly 2000 illustrations and photos the book is very comprehensive.  The text and photos are by Steven Falk and it is wonderfully illustrated by Richard Lewington.  The author makes the point that precise identification of bees is not always possible from photos but I have taken quite a lot(!) of bee photos this past year so this new field guide has enabled me to look back at some of them and work out what they are.

This one, I think, is a female Flavous Nomad Bee (Nomada flava).

And this is a female Fork-jawed Nomad Bee (Nomada ruficornis).

I saw a couple of all black bumblebees.  This one is probably a black form of the male Field Cuckoo Bee (Bombus campestris).

And this is obviously a female (pollen in the pollen baskets) and could be a perniger form worker Large Garden Bumblebee (Bombus ruderatus).

This bee I saw in Northumberland in April and is probably a queen Forest Cuckoo Bee (Bombus sylvestris).

This is a Green-eyed Flower Bee (Anthophora bimaculata).

These are a few of the many that I still haven't worked out.  If you know what they are please leave a comment.


  1. The sixth unknown is in the genus Andrena, based on the velvety facial fovea.

  2. Lovely photos; aren't bees interesting? For identification purposes, it would be really helpful if you gave dates and where taken for each photo. Of your unknowns:
    1 - either Halictus or Lasioglossum (need to look more closely at the bands of hairs on the tergites) but my instinct says Halictus; male because of very long antennae (if Halictus and in NE England, yellow legs, probably H. rubicundus m)
    2 - Halictus female (bands of hair on abdomen are at ends/apex of tergites, not at top/base as in Lasiogloassum); yellow hind legs with orangey scopal hairs, L. rubicundus f (if at same site/date as photo 1 this would strengthen case for 1)
    3 - Halicutus, smaller species, metallic sheen to head and thorax I think; (if taken in NE England) H. tumulorum. This one appears to have a stylops (Strepsiptera - female parasite) sticking out of one of the last visible tergites at the end of the abdomen (do you have other photos of this one showing it better?); these effect the sex features of any bee, but this bee looks mostly female to me (though I can't count the antennal segments on photo), but with under-developed scopal hairs on hind legs.
    4 - Andrena female; faded and worn hair and lots of pollen, so I would not guess to species.
    5 - Nomada (can't count antennae segments but looks male to me; they are more variable in colour patterns than f); could possibly be N. marshamella?
    6 - Andrena female; can't go any further with this one as could be one of many sp. Scopa orange from pollen so can't tell their true colour.
    7 - Lasioglossum male (hair bands clearly at bases of tergites, long antennae, 13 segs) red on abdomen = L. albipes or calceatum (difficult to separate without a specimen under a microscope) L. calceatum common, L. albipes less frequent though certainly present in NE.
    8 - Megachile species male. The fore tarsi (front arm) is broad/flattened and covered in long white hair (looks like a white glove tucked up beside head; I would guess at M. willughbiella m, but would need specimen and microscope to confirm id for recording purposes, as there are others with similar feature.

  3. Hi Louise. Many thanks for your help. I hadn't noticed the stylops on bee 3 but can see it now. I have only three very similar photos so I guess it was only on the flower for a moment. I chose these photos to illustrate the huge variation in solitary bees. There are plenty more I haven't identified!
    As for locations and dates:
    1, 3, 5, and 7 were in Somerset on 22 Aug
    2 Warwickshire 29 July
    4 Northants 27 June
    6 Northants 26 June
    8 Newcastle 30 June