Sunday, 16 April 2017

Bee of the week - Hairy-footed flower bee

This bee is one of my favourites, the hairy-footed flower bee (Anthophora plumipes).  It is named after the hairy middle feet of the male, shown well on these two collecting nectar from their favourite flowers, pulmonaria.

The male has a pale yellow face which is easy to see as he flies.

These guys were sheltering in a wall at Coton Manor in Northants on a cool cloudy day.

This one is showing his hairy middle legs.

The female hairy-footed flower bee is all black apart from an orange scopa (pollen-collecting brush) on each back leg. She doesn't have hairy feet.

Bees of both sexes often fly with their proboscis extended when foraging for nectar.

This one shows well that the proboscis is made of two halves, like a split straw, and the true tongue is in the middle.

I have seen these bees mainly on pulmonaria or cowslips but this one was on peach blossom.

This one was foraging on pulmonaria and shows well the pollen marks of contact with the flower's anthers.

I also managed a photo of a mating pair.

Hairy-footed flower bees mainly nest in cob walls and old soft mortar in brick or stone walls.  Although they are solitary bees, each female with her own nest hole, there can be several thousand in an aggregation, such as in this old cob wall in Nether Heyford, Northamptonshire.

Here are a couple of female bees emerging from their nests.

Anthophora plumipes is mainly found in the southern half of the UK, as shown on this BWARS map.

However, for the past few years there has been a population the The Alnwick Garden in Northumberland (just above the d of United on the map), where I took these photos this week.  The female bee in the first photo has a big pollen load so her scopa is yellow.

You can find a BWARS (Bee, Wasp & Ant Recording Society) information leaflet on Anthophora plumipes here.


  1. Fantastic photos and interesting facts, love it!

  2. These are one of my favourite bees too. I've seen some of the females this spring.

  3. I saw some of these black females on my Pulmonaria and didnt know what they were.
    Now I do. Many thanks for the brilliant photos

    1. I didn't know what they were the first time I saw them either. I had to go home and look them up. When I found out I then had to go back the next day to take more photos. I'm still learning but at least these are fairly easy to recognise. You can hear them coming as well.

  4. Excellent pictures!

  5. How on earth do they tuck that enormous long proboscis into their bodies? It looks as if it would go back to the abdomen!

    1. I guess it just folds back underneath Phil. What amuses is me is when they clean it with their front legs while flying - it looks like an angel blowing a trumpet.