Sunday, 30 April 2017

Bee of the week - Buffish mining bee

This week's bee is the buffish mining bee (Andrena nigroaenea).  Although it has featured here before I chose it because it is at the peak of its activity for the year, as I saw on the Spetchells a couple of days ago.  When I arrived the weather was cool and cloudy so there were plenty of bees sitting around, waiting to warm up.  These are males (the black background in some photos is where I have used flash).

And these are females.

This is a close up of the scopa, the pollen brush, on the female bee's back leg, showing a few pollen grains.

This one is resting having just returned with a full pollen load.

As soon as the sun came out the bees became much more active.  Here you can see a cloud of males patrolling a gorse bush.

There were thousands of bees flying.  I don't know what the male:female ratio is for these bees but there looked to be many more males, in which case most of them will never get to mate.  This one (on the left) struck lucky.

I have read that the males vary considerably in size.  I am not sure if these Andrena males are all nigroaenea (Andrena males from different species can look very similar) but, if they are, there is certainly size variation.

The females each dig a nest burrow in the ground, producing a tiny volcano.

Here is one emerging from her nest hole.

This female is foraging on dandelion a couple of hundred metres away.

This one is returning with a pollen load.

Under ground the tunnel leads to several cells, each of which is provisioned with pollen before the female lays an egg. Each cell will produce one bee next year. The male and female flying bees live only a few weeks.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

The under gardener

I have spent much of the past week or so in the garden so there hasn't been much opportunity to get out and take photos.  It's the sort of job that has to be done now otherwise I'll regret it later in the season.  I was assisted throughout by this fellow.  Every time he stopped singing I knew he'd spotted something tasty.  He helped me out by collecting all the caterpillars, etc that I'd missed.

One neat trick he showed me was how to pick up a millipede when you are already carrying a caterpillar.

It is a pity he's not quite so good at weeding.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

A fox in the bluebells

I have been experimenting with the trail camera in the garden in the past few nights.  The fox turns up every night but getting it to stand in exactly the right place with the right expression is tricky.  The colour contrast between the fox and the flowers is just right.

It is interesting that wherever I put the camera, the fox is almost always looking at or towards it.  It must be able to see or smell or hear it.  The badgers, on the other hand, don't take any notice of the camera (or the flash), and are just as often facing completely the wrong way.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017


These six little balls of fluff are the first goslings of the season at Gosforth Park and they attracted a lot of interest from the other dozen or so greylags on the lake.

When I was watching the parents spent most of their time warding off the unwanted attentions of the other geese.  This is the father in his threat posture.

Eventually the parents decided to move off to the reedbeds for a bit of peace and quiet.

But they were followed by a flotilla of excited geese.

The last I saw of them they were heading for the other end of the lake.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Bee of the week - Melecta albifrons

Melecta albifrons is a cuckoo bee, a cleptoparasite of last week's Bee of the Week, Anthophora plumipes.  It is found in and around aggregations of nests of its host.  The female flies or walks around the nest holes, looking for an unprotected nest in which to lay her eggs.

The male and female Melecta albifrons are almost indistinguishable in the field.  This one is a male as it has 13 segments in its antennae (as opposed to 12 in a female).  I think it was also newly emerged as its wings weren't quite fully expanded.

Being a cuckoo, the female doesn't collect pollen and therefore has no scopa (pollen brush) on her hind legs.  All she does is drink nectar and lay eggs.

Most Melecta albifrons are black and white, as in the photos above, but a few are almost entirely black, as this one below.  Melecta albifrons is also known as the common mourning bee.

Melecta albifrons is found in the southern half of the UK.  These photos were all taken in Northamptonshire.