Common Carder Bumblebee Bombus pascuorum

Common Carder Bumblebee Bombus pascuorum

Common Carder Bumblebee Bombus pascuorum

Common Carder Bumblebee Bombus pascuorum

I love bumblebees, and this is one of my favourties.

September 2017, rear garden, Staffordshire, England.

Red-tailed Bumblebee Bombus lapidarius

Red-tailed Bumblebee Bombus lapidarius male

You can see why they call this the Red-tailed Bumblebee. This is a male with the yellow stripes. I really liked my Lavender, and must have been around it for about half an hour going from flower to flower.

Red-tailed Bumblebee Bombus lapidarius male

Red-tailed Bumblebee Bombus lapidarius male

Red-tailed Bumblebee Bombus lapidarius male

August 2017, rear garden, Staffordshire, England.

The Clean Queen

Black Garden Ant Lasius niger queen

The new queen ant which has fled the nest on its nuptial flight seems to be more interested in the ornate ball set atop the post of my decking. She seemed to be eating the decking oil (see image directly below) I had treated it with, which I have seen other ants do in the past. She was also a very clean queen, for she was always grooming herself. She must have been up there for at least 2 hours, and seemed very reluctant to leave.

Black Garden Ant Lasius niger queen

Black Garden Ant Lasius niger queen

Rear garden, Staffordshire, England. July 2017.

Four For Dinner

Large Rose Sawfly Arge pagana larva

They have been at my roses all summer so far, and they are certainly making a meal of them. These are Large Rose Sawfly (Arge pagana) larva, young instars most likely. And four of them seem to like this one particular leaf for some reason. I feel sorry for the top two, for when they finally meet in the middle it will be the guy sitting on the branch he is sawing off scenario. Or maybe it won’t come to that.


Rear garden, Staffordshire, England. July 2017.


Please click on an image for a larger more detailed view. Clicking a second time may get you a little closer.

Buck Bumble Stops By

Tree Bumblebee Bombus hypnorum

It was a hot sunny afternoon and I sat by the pond sipping some cider when this rather rude fellow came and sat down right beside me.

He immediately began sticking out his tongue, and I said, “Hey, Buck. Do you have to do that right here and right now?”

“I sure do,” he said, sticking out his tongue so far out of his head I thought it might drop out.

“But it is rather rude, don’t you think?” I replied, feeling somewhat repulsed and putting my can of cider down on the deck.

“No, not at all,” the bumblebee said, curling and wriggling his sticky tongue.

Tree Bumblebee Bombus hypnorum

Then something quite extraordinary happened. I thought I was on the set of another remake of The Thing when one tongue became three!

What the heck … I thought, and said. “Do you really, really have to do that, as well?”

The sun beat down, flies buzzed and a vibrant blue damselfly floated over the sparkling water of the pond to settle on the sword-like leaf of an Iris.

“I sure do,” he repeated, but it was hard to make out what he was saying with all that odd tongue business going on.

Tree Bumblebee Bombus hypnorum

“But is it really necessary? I am trying to have a nice sit down and enjoy a nice drink of scrumpy. It is rather off-putting, you know.”

“I sure do. I have to keep it in tip-top condition. I apologise, but grooming is very important to us bumblebees.”

Tree Bumblebee Bombus hypnorum

I mellowed a little, and picked up my can of cider and said, “I guess that’s fine then. Quite a neat trick the three in one thing.”

I dare not repeat what he said, but with that it buzzed off and left me there sitting on the deck pondering over what just happened.


Please click on the images for a larger more detailed view. Clicking again gets you closer still.


Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum), rear garden, Staffordshire, England. June 2017.

The Bumblebee And The Geranium

Early Bumblebee Bombus pratorum

I have always had a soft spot for bumblebees since I was a child which has never waned, but has actually deepened as I have got older. This bumblebee is one of my favourites and is called the Early Bumblebee (Bombus pratorum). I am always taken by the bands of yellow and the bright orange tail, although the middle band can be absent in some workers.


Early Bumblebee (Bombus pratorum) on Pencilled Crane’s-bill (Geranium versicolor), rear garden, Staffordshire, England. May 2017.

Turnip Sawfly

Athalia rosae

Turnip Sawfly Athalia rosae

This is quite a small but very distinctive sawfly which I regularly see around my back garden. Brightly orange body and legs, a black head, black markings on the thorax and along one side of the wings.

Turnip Sawfly Athalia rosae

Common and widespread, the larvae are considered to be an occasional but serious pest of crucifers, especially turnips.


Turnip Sawfly (Athalia rosae), rear garden, Staffordshire, England. May 2017.

Bluebells In The Garden

Bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta


Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) and introducing Red Mason Bee (Osmia bicornis), rear garden, Staffordshire, England. April 2017.

The Hunter And The Hunted

Ichneumon stramentor female

Sitting on my small square of decking near my garden pond, just relaxing after being busy in the garden, a small drama began to play out.

Spotted Wolf Spider Pardosa amentata

Ichneumon stramentor female

There are always many Spotted Wolf Spider (Pardosa amentata) gathered around my pond, resting on the rocks and stones, and hiding in-between them, and what appears amongst them is this female Ichneumon wasp, Ichneumon stramentor. It was directly on the side of the decking  beneath me, and it was moving quite rapidly back and forth across the boarding, its long antennae flickering madly as if in searching for something. The females hunt out moth caterpillars where it will inject them with eggs, the larvae upon hatching will eat the caterpillar from the inside out whilst it is still alive, quite a gruesome way to go. Maybe this was what this wasp was searching for, a host for its young.

Ichneumon stramentor female

But whilst the Ichneumon wasp was preoccupied in its own possible hunt, it was actually being hunted. A Spotted Wolf Spider suddenly appeared but a few centimetres away from beneath the decking, and was observing the wasp, maybe weighing it up. It crept a little closer to it, but appeared quite wary. It observed its potential prey, must have decided it was too big for it to tackle, and the wasp went on its own way.

 

Ichneumon stramentor

Ichneumon stramentor

Out of all the insects to attempt to photograph I find wasps can be one of the trickiest of challenges as they hardly ever keep still. This is an ichneumon wasp, quite a large species and colourful with its bright yellow markings. There are many similar species and identifying them can be a challenge in itself. There are believed to be over 3,000 species in Britain alone. But thanks to my blogger friend Ark I managed to positively identify it.I spotted this one yesterday afternoon as it appeared quite interested in my back fence, poking its head in nooks and crannies. I did not think I would get any shots in, it was so busy, until it stopped for a brief moment to have a little spruce up.

Ichneumon stramentor

Despite its fearsome looks it does not sting. The bright yellow spot on the tip of the abdomen and the pale yellow bands on the antennae define it as a female as these are absent in the male. The larvae are parasites of moth larvae, notably the Large Yellow Underwing and Setaceous Hebrew Character. Seen April to July, and found in meadows, hedgerows, woodland margins and gardens.


Ichneumon stramentor female, rear garden, Staffordshire, England. April 2017.

Tree Bumblebee

Bombus hypnorum

Tree Bumblebee Bombus hypnorum

Now this is one bumblebee I have seen a definate increase in visits to my garden in recent years.

The Tree Bumblebee is easily recognised by its gingery-brown thorax and black abdomen with a white tail. This is a short-tongued bumblebee. The queen may have some white hairs on her abdomen, and the male has white hairs on his face. Similar to the Common Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum), except the Tree Bumblebee has a distinct white tail. Size Queen 18mm, worker 14mm, male 16mm.

Tree Bumblebee Bombus hypnorum

In its natural setting it nests in hollows of trees, but here it has taken to gardens, and particularly tit boxes.

Seen early in the year from February until July. Found in woodland, roadside verges, scrubby grasslands, parks and allotments. Often seen visiting fruit bearing plants, tree and shrubs, which make them important pollinators.

A relative newcomer to the British Isles, it was first recorded in Hampshire, England in 2001 and has steadily increased in numbers pushing northwards fringing the borders of Scotland. They have also spread rapidly eastwards, but have been slow in the west, but are now in South Wales. The bumblebee has the potential to spread throughout the whole country without any adverse affect on other species.


June 2014, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2014. Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

Wool Carder Bee

Anthidium manicatum

Wool Carder Bee Anthidium manicatum

This has to be one of my very favourite solitary bees with its bright yellow markings, although it can have quite the temper with other bees.

Wool Carder Bee Anthidium manicatum

Easily recognised solitary bee by the bright yellow spots on either side of the abdomen. It also has distinctive yellow legs and face. The male is much larger than the female, which is unusual amongst bees. Size 8 to 15mm.

Wool Carder Bee Anthidium manicatum

The male holds territory around a clump of flowers expelling all apart from the female carder bees which it will mate with. They are so aggressive they are known to kill bumblebees much larger than themselves and honey bees by crushing them with three sharp prongs on their abdomen. The female cuts and combs the fibres from hairy plants with her large jaws and gathers them into a ball under her body in readiness to take back to her nest, which is usually constructed within a pre-existing cavity or a hollow stem. The ‘carded’ material is then used to line the nest. Good pollinators.

Wool Carder Bee Anthidium manicatum

Wool Carder Bee Anthidium manicatum

Seen May to August, and found in many habitats, including gardens. Widespread across Europe.

Wool Carder Bee Anthidium manicatum


July 2006, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2006.

Vestal Cuckoo Bumblebee

Bumblebee Bombus vestalis

Vestal Cuckoo Bumblebee Bombus vestalis

This species of cuckoo bee grows up in the nests of the Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris). This parasitic bee differs from having a conspicuous yellow patch on either side of the abdomen. Other differences include a lack of pollen baskets on the legs, thinner coats, and making a soft murmuring rather than a definitive buzz. This is a short-tongued bee. Also called the ‘Southern Cuckoo Bumblebee’. Similar to the Gypsy Cuckoo-bee (Bombus bohemicus), where the patches aren’t so dominant and are smaller. Sizes male 15 to 19mm, female 20 to 24mm.

Vestal Cuckoo Bumblebee Bombus vestalis

Like all cuckoo bees, they have no worker caste as their own, so they invade the hosts’ nests and take the work force for its own. Important plant pollinators.

Vestal Cuckoo Bumblebee Bombus vestalis

The female will seek out its host’s nest and will fight off any hostilities towards her, eventually killing the queen of the nest and her offspring, and effectively she will run the show from then onwards, utilising the remaining workers for her and her young’s own benefits. Its hosts’ nests are generally old mouse holes. Feeds on nectar and pollen.

Vestal Cuckoo Bumblebee Bombus vestalis

Seen March to August, and found in differing habitats, including gardens and grassland. Males regular in suburban gardens. Common in the south of England and Wales.

Vestal Cuckoo Bumblebee Bombus vestalis

Vestal Cuckoo Bumblebee Bombus vestalis


June 2007, front garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2007.

Tawny Mining Bee

Andrena fulva

Tawny Mining Bee Andrena fulva

The female is unmistakable with her bright fox-red coat. Size 10 to 13mm.

It can be seen coming and going to its nesting sites in the earth or in lawns where the female throws up little mounds of earth around her entrance. There maybe many mounds in close proximity, each one the entrance to a single, solitary bee’s nest. Excellent and essential pollinator. Feeds on nectar and pollen.

Seen April to June, and found in many habitats, including gardens. Widespread and common.


April 2013, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2013.

 

Common Carder Bumblebee

Bombus pascuorum

Common Carder Bumblebee Bombus pascuorum

Also know as the ‘Brown Bumblebee’, this bee has a very distinctive tawny or gingery thorax. The abdominal region contains a mixture of black and brown hairs with traces of fine grey to white and is thin in coverage compared to the thorax which is fairly thick. A long-tongued bee. Size queen 15 to 18mm, worker 10 to 15mm.

Common Carder Bumblebee Bombus pascuorum

These bees use their legs to comb moss (hence the English reference ‘Carder’ which comes from the world of spinning wool) to make their nests. They are relatively placid creatures, and rarely sting even when handled or disturbed. They feed on pollen and nectar, particularly that of clovers. An essential pollinator, and the only bee known to pollinate broad beans.

Common Carder Bumblebee Bombus pascuorum

It is a surface-nesting bee, and nests are usually formed in old mouse holes or amongst carpets of moss or thick grass. The cuckoobee Bombus campestris targets the nests and uses the worker caste to its own advantage.

One of the earliest bees and one of the last to disappear in the autumn. Found in all habitats, including farmland and woodland glades, parks and gardens. Widespread and common in Britain, and one of the commonest bumblebees in Europe.


May 2007, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2007.

Early Mining Bee

Andrena haemorrhoa

Early Mining Bee Andrena haemorrhoa

Quite a small bee which never really kept still, and quite a challenge to photograph with the camera I had at the time.

The rich gingery brown thoracic hair and the blue-black-brown abdomen with the gingery brown tip readily identify this small active, solitary bee. The male is much smaller than the female, and the male has a pale brown face whilst the female is white. Size 10 to 12mm.

Early Mining Bee Andrena haemorrhoa

Burrows are dug in many open habitats in which they make their nests. Feeds on pollen and nectar.

Early Mining Bee Andrena haemorrhoa

Seen March to July, and found in various habitats, including parks, garden lawns, sports fields, and similar places. A common species in Britain and across Europe generally.

Early Mining Bee Andrena haemorrhoa

June 2006, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2006.

White-tailed Bumblebee

Bombus lucorum

White-tailed Bumblebee Bombus lucorum

One of my favourite bumblebees and a regular visitor to my garden.

The queens and workers (and some males) have a white tail and a lemony stripe towards the front of the the thorax, and a lemony stripe across the abdomen. A large robust species with a very short tongue. Similar to Bombus terrestris, which can be very hard to distinguish between workers. Sizes queen 19 to 20mm, male 14 to 16mm, worker 11 to 17mm.

White-tailed Bumblebee Bombus lucorum

They nest in a variety of places, usually underground, and always under cover. Old rodents’ nests make good places. Often nests beneath timber floors of garden sheds. Mature nests are large, with over 200 workers. Towards the autumn the colony gradually dies out with the old queen, the new fertilised queen flown the nest ready to hibernate and to start over again the next spring. Not particularly fussy eaters. They also dine on the pollen and nectar of the more exotic garden species of flower. They are excellent pollinators.

White-tailed Bumblebee Bombus lucorum

The queens, looking for nesting sites, are one of the first bees to be seen in the spring. Found in many habitats, but usually in upland and moorland habitats. A regular garden species. Widespread and common, especially towards the north.


June 2006, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2006.

Coelioxys elongata

This Sharp-tailed Bee (this group is also called Sharp-abdomen Bees or Sharp-bellied Bees) has a dark brown to blackish abdomen with pale stripes, forming a definite point at the rear in females. The abdomen is less pointed in males, and the faces are quite hairy. Size 10 to 15mm.

A cleptoparasitic solitary bee of leaf-cutter bees of the genus Megachile. A good pollinator. Defined as a cuckoobee for its nature of laying eggs in the nests of social bees (similar to that of cuckoo birds where the name comes from) where they are reared as the hosts own larvae. The parasitic bee larva consumes the pollen ball and the larva within the cell and is tended by the host bee’s worker class. Feeds on pollen and nectar.

Coelioxys elongata female

Coelioxys elongata female

Seen June to September. Found in many habitats, including gardens. Local. Endangered species in Ireland.


June 2005 and May 2014, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2005 and 2014.

Garden Bumblebee

Bombus hortorum

Garden Bumblebee Bombus hortorum

This was a special treat when this large bee with a very long tongue (yep, bees have tongues) visited my garden, for I have not seen one since.

Garden Bumblebee Bombus hortorum

Sometimes called the ‘Small Garden Bumblebee’ (despite it being one of the largest species) or the ‘Long-tongued Bumblebee’, it has two yellow bands on the thorax, one yellow band on the abdomen, and a white tail. The tongue is very long (the longest of any bumblebee found in Europe, in fact), and the male has black facial hairs. A large, shaggy garden species. Sizes queen 17 to 22mm, male 13 to 15mm, worker 11 to 16mm.

Garden Bumblebee Bombus hortorum

The nests are usually made underground and always under cover. Queens searching for suitable nesting sites may be observed March to May. Mature nests contain around 100 workers. Barbut’s Cuckoobee (Bombus barbutellus) takes over the nests of B. hortorum, of which it looks very similar, but it is not nearly as widespread.

Garden Bumblebee Bombus hortorum

The males appear in June, and they are found in many habitats, especially gardens. They regularly visits foxglove (Digitalis), Red Clover (Trifolium pratense), and Dead-nettle (Lamium). A widespread and abundant species.


June 2007, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2007.

Flower Bee II

Flower Bee Anthophora plumipes male

Flower Bee Anthophora plumipes male


May 2015, male Anthophora plumipes, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2015. Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

Flower Bee

Anthophora plumipes

Flower Bee Anthophora plumipes male

Flower Bee Anthophora plumipes male

Now this is quite a curious bee I discovered visiting my garden. Sometimes called the ‘Hairy- footed Flower Bee’, the female of this fast-flying solitary bee is jet black, whilst the male is largely gingery-brown with a bright yellow face. Long-tongued bee. Size 14 to 17mm.

Flower Bee Anthophora plumipes male

The nests are built in the ground and in the loose mortar of old walls. Feeds on nectar and pollen, and is a good pollinator.

Flower Bee Anthophora plumipes female

Flower Bee Anthophora plumipes female

They are seen March to June, although rarely seen in June. Found in flower-rich pastures, including gardens, where Common Lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis) is a favourite flower. Distributed throughout much of England and Wales, especially south. Absent from Scotland and Ireland.

Flower Bee Anthophora plumipes female


Male, top three images taken April 2007, and female bottom three images taken March 2012, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2007 and 2012.

Honey Bee

Apis mellifera

Honey Bee Apis mellifera

Sometimes called the ‘European Honey Bee’, this is the most familiar of all our bees. It is the male drones that we usually see buzzing around the flower borders in summer. They vary from bright honey coloured to grey or dark brown, for Apis mellifera (translates as ‘honey carrying bee’) covers several subspecies or tribes. Sizes queen 16mm, drone 16mm, worker 12mm.

Honey Bee Apis mellifera

Widely domesticated bee and associated with artificial hives manufacturing honey, wax, and other products. They communicate with the language of dance. Essential pollinator of commercial crops and providers of honey and wax.

Honey Bee Apis mellifera

Apart form the man-made hives, they generally nest in the hollows of trees, which are constructed from wax. Each nest may contain thousands upon thousands of bees. Feed on nectar and pollen.

Seen early spring until late into the autumn. Found in a wide range of habitats, especially gardens. Nests usually found in woodland. Widespread and abundant. Native to Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. Populations have suffered depletion where non-native bees have been introduced. A recent threat here in Britain is the mite Varroa jacobsoni which has caused devastation to colonies after its introduction in 1992.


July 204 and 15, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2014 and 2015. Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

Barbut’s Cuckoo Bumblebee

Bombus barbutellus

Barbut’s Cuckoo Bumblebee Bombus barbutellus

Both sexes have two yellow stripes on the thorax and one on the abdomen with a white tail. They have sparse hairs and the wings are darker. The facial hairs on the male are black. Size 15 to 19mm.

Barbut’s Cuckoo Bumblebee Bombus barbutellus

A cleptoparasitic bee of the nests of the Garden Bumblebee (Bombus hortorum).

Barbut’s Cuckoo Bumblebee Bombus barbutellus

Females searching for hosts to parasitise are seen in April to May. Males and females on flowers in July and August. Found in many habitats, including gardens. Not generally common, but widely distributed in southern England and in west Wales.

Barbut’s Cuckoo Bumblebee Bombus barbutellus

July 2013, local field, Staffordshire. Nikon Coolpix P500. © Pete Hillman 2013.

Nomada flava

Nomada flava

This is a wasp-like cuckoo-bee which has a black and yellow striped abdomen with reddish markings at the front, a reddish striped thorax, and red legs and antennae. Size 12mm.

Nomada flava is a cleptoparisitic bee of mining bees, where the female lays its eggs so the hatching larva will develop there, killing the host larva.

Seen April to May, and found in a variety of flower-rich habitats, including meadows, hedgerows, verges and gardens. Common and widespread in England and Wales.


May 2012, rear garden, Staffordshire. Nikon Coolpix P500. © Pete Hillman 2012.

Wood Ant

Formica Rufa

Wood Ant (Formica Rufa)

I remember the very first time I encountered these large ants. It was on a school camping trip back in 1976 at the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire. I was fascinated not only by their size and colour, but by the huge anthills they had buit to house their colonies. This experience would stay with me into adulthood, and fuel my interest and fascination for the natural world.

Wood Ant (Formica Rufa)

Also called the ‘Red Wood Ant’, the ‘Southern Wood Ant’, or the ‘Horse Ant’, this is one of the UK’s largest species of ant. The workers are brownish-red and black. There are several similar species so one has to take care in identification. Length worker 8 to 10mm, queen 12mm.

Wood Ant (Formica Rufa)

They are most active during the summer months. This ant has no sting, but can shoot formic acid from its abdomen when threatened or disturbed. It can also bite fiercely. Wood Ants are omnivores, but with a preference for other insects and invertebrates, although they are mainly scavengers

Wood Ant (Formica Rufa)

Found mainly in coniferous woodland, building large nests from pine needles, grass and twigs. Widespread but localised in England and Wales, found mainly in the south and south-east of England. It is absent from Ireland and Scotland.

Photographs of Wood Ant (Formica Rufa), taken May 2013, Wyre Forest, Worcestershire. © Pete Hillman 2013. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.

Hornet

Vespa crabro

Hornet (Vespa crabro)

Britain’s largest wasp, it is most distinctive with its brown and yellow colouration. The eyes are large and C-shaped, and they also have three simple eyes (ocelli) in the centre of their forehead between the main eyes. Length 20 to 30mm.

Hornet (Vespa crabro)

The nest is made from chewed wood and is paper-like, and are found in tree hollows, chimneys or wall cavities. Hornets are carnivores and predate on many garden pests, but they can also destroy honeybee hives.

Hornet (Vespa crabro)

Seen spring and summer, and through into autumn until the frosts set in which kill them all off except the young queens which survive the winter hibernating in sheds or tree hollows. Found in woods, parks and gardens. Attracted to light. Quite uncommon, but widespread in the south and centre of England and most of Wales, scarce or absent elsewhere.

Hornets are characterised as aggressive insects, and although due to their large size they can appear fearsome, they are less aggressive and less likely to sting than the average wasp. But their sting can be quite painful if they are provoked or especially if their nest is threatened.

Photographs of Hornet (Vespa crabro), taken June  2006, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2006. Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W1.

Tenthredo maculata

Tenthredo maculata

This sawfly is a striking yellow wasp mimic, with a large bright yellow band across its abdomen, which is larger in the males. It also has yellow markings on the thorax, head and legs. Dark patches on wing margins. Length 12 to 16mm.

Tenthredo maculata

The larvae feed on grasses.

Tenthredo maculata

It flies May to late summer, and it is found along hedgerows and woodland rides, and in meadows where they maybe seen feeding and mating on umbelliferous flowers. A common and widespread species, except for the far north.

Photographs of Tenthredo maculata, taken June  2013, local woodland path, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2013. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.

Honey Bee Nest

Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) nest

On my walks through the wood yesterday I came across this Honey Bee nest in an old tree hollow. They were busy toing and froing, quite busy in their endeavours.

Photograph of Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) nest, taken October 2016, local wood, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

Red Mason Bee

Osmia bicornis

Red Mason Bee (Osmia bicornis)

A small solitary bee with golden yellowish to orangish hairs. The male has pale facial hair, whilst the female has black. Up to 14mm in length. It is called the Red Mason Bee for it rakes out old, loose mortar between bricks in walls to construct its nest cells before rendering them over again, but does not strictly utilise mortar cavities, but will use any cavity available.

Red Mason Bee (Osmia bicornis)

In the early spring the females will mate then find a natural hollow or man-made one, having a particular liking to mortar in old walls. It will then make cells with mud and store collected pollen or nectar then lay a single egg in each cell. The hole is usually plugged before the female moves off to find another suitable cavity. The entombed larva will then remain in the cavity until the following spring when it will emerge as an adult. These bees are hardy to severe winters. Non aggressive bees which will not sting unless harmed. They are excellent early spring pollinators, especially of fruits. Feeds on nectar and pollen.

Red Mason Bee (Osmia bicornis)

Seen April to July in many habitats, including gardens. Very common in southern Britain.

Photographs of Red Mason Bee (Osmia bicornis) taken in May 2015, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2015. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

Cherry Gall Wasp

Cynips quercusfolii

Cherry Gall Wasp (Cynips quercusfolii)

These marble like galls measuring up to 25mm in diameter are found beneath the leaves of Pedunculate Oak (Quercus robur) and Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea). Cynips quercusfolii is a tiny black gall wasp, and within the plant gall its larva stage grows. On Pedunculate Oak the gall is smooth where on Sessile Oak it is rough and warty. They start off as yellowish-green, turning pink then red towards autumn. It turns brown just before the leaves fall.

Cherry Gall Wasp (Cynips quercusfolii)

The gall and the wasp larva inside matures on the ground and the adult wasp emerges between late autumn and early spring. Eggs are laid in the dormant oak buds where small purple galls are formed. These will bring forth the sexual generation which emerge in late spring and lay their eggs in the new season’s leaves to start the process over again. Seen summer until autumn. Common and widespread.

Photographs of Cherry Gall Wasp (Cynips quercusfolii), taken June and October 2013, local wood and nature reserve. © Pete Hillman 2013. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.

Robin’s Pincushion

Diplolepis rosae

Robin's Pincushion (Diplolepis rosae)

This strange yet beautiful growth is the result of a tiny gall wasp called Diplolepis rosae laying its eggs in a wild rose bud in springtime. Also called the ‘Bedeguar Gall Wasp’, the females appear in the spring just in time to lay their eggs in the fresh young buds. Males are a rarity, and most females lay fertilised eggs without mating.

The gall mainly grows on the stem of the plant, and it can spread up to 7cm across. The gall has a woody core each surrounded by branching red or green hairs. The core usually has multiple chambers in which each a wasp larvae develops. The galls turn brown in the autumn and lose many of their hairs.

Photograph of Robin’s Pincushion (Diplolepis rosae), taken August 2010, country park, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2010. Camera used Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38.

Buff-tailed Bumblebee

Bombus terrestris

Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris)

This is our largest bumblebee and is sometimes known as the ‘Large Earth Bumblebee’. It is usually the first to emerge after hibernation. The queen has a distinctive dirty white to orangey tail, and deep yellow thoracic and abdominal bands. The tongue is very short. Queen 19 to 22mm, male 14 to 16mm, worker 11 to 17mm.

Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris)

Because of its short tongue this bee has developed a special ability to reach the nectar deep within flower heads by biting a hole at the base of the corolla and then drinking through it. These bees can apparently navigate their way back to a nest from 13km (8 miles) away! Important pollinators, especially of fruit trees, raspberries and blueberries. The nests are built in a variety of locations, but usually underground and always undercover. Large nests may contain over 300 workers. The Vestal Cuckoo-bee (Bombus vestalis) is a cleptoparasitic bee which invades the nests and looks very similar. Feeds on nectar and pollen.

Emerging as early as February in the south. Found in many habitats, and a regular visitor to gardens. A common and very widespread species, not only throughout Britain but also Europe. But not in the far north, and scarce in Scotland.

Photographs of Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris), taken September 2016, rear garden , Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

Just Hanging On

Common Carder Bumblebee (Bombus pascuorum)

Photograph of Common Carder Bumblebee (Bombus pascuorum), taken September 2016, rear garden , Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

Down At The Watering Hole

Common Wasp (Vespula vulgaris)

Photographs of Common Wasp (Vespula vulgaris) taken August 2016, rear garden pond, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.


I have had a fascinating few months watching my garden pond develop, but one thing I wasn’t really expecting was the regular visitation of wasps. They drop by to have a drink, and then they are off again, and aren’t any real bother at all.

The Hornet And The Painted Lady

The Hornet And The Painted Lady

Photograph of Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) and Hornet, taken August 2016, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Nikon 70-300mm telephoto zoom lens.

More Devastation

Large Rose Sawfly (Arge pagana)

They are at it again. I have posted on these previously this year, and these sawfly larvae, called Large Rose Sawfly (Arge pagana), are stripping my rose-bush leaves again. They seem to be very methodical in their consumption of the leaves, completely stripping individual leaves bare before moving onto others, leaving ravaged skeleton stalks behind them. They must be another generation.

But if the little birds catch site of them, they are a good source of protein.

Please see my previous posts ‘Balancing Act’ and ‘Life In A Week’ for more information.

Photograph of Large Rose Sawfly (Arge pagana), taken August 2016, rear garden , Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens with softbox flash diffuser.

Diplazon laetatorius

Diplazon laetatorius

I was photographing my sweet peas after a night’s heavy rain when I spotted this tiny wasp resting on one of them. It only grows up to 10mm long, and it is identified by the white, black and orange banded hind tibia. The overall ground colour is black and reddish, with a distinctive white spot at the rear of the thorax.

This is a parasitic wasp mainly of hoverfly larvae, pupae and eggs, but also other diptera species. The females use their long ovipositors to inject the host and lay eggs inside it, and when the resulting larvae hatch they feed internally and eventaully kill the host organism.

It is seen June to September, and found in meadows and hedgerows. It appears to be fairly common.

Photograph of Diplazon laetatorius, taken August 2016, rear garden , Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

Life In A Week

It’s amazing how things can change in just one week, especially if you are an insect. Last week I posted ‘Balancing Act’, which showed these caterpillars in an early stage of development, and after one week of almost continuous feasting on my rose-bush leaves how they have grown and changed.

These are Large Rose Sawfly (Arge pagana) larvae, and how bright yellow and distinctly marked they have become within just a short period of time. They can grow up to 25mm in length. By the end of this month they will have dropped from the rose leaves to bury themselves in the earth. Pupation will take place in a very short time, and at the start of August the brightly yellow coloured adults will emerge to begin the cycle over again.

Red-tailed Bumblebee

Bombus lapidarius

With its all black coat apart from the bright red tail from where the English name originates, this is Britain’s most distinctive bee. A large, slender bee, the male has a yellow collar. The queens grow up to 22mm in length, and the workers up to 16mm in length. 

The nests are made in a variety of different places, usually in open areas underground, beneath large rocks, or in wall cavities. Large, mature nests may contain up to 150 workers. Young nests may be taken over by the cleptoparasitic bee Bombus rupestris. Feeds on nectar and pollen. It will sting if its nest is threatened. An important pollinator of oil-seed rape crops.

Queens emerge from hibernation fairly late compared to other species of bumblebee. Found in arable fields, gardens and  chalk downland. Common and widespread.

Photographs taken March 2014 and May 2015, rear garden, Staffordshire.

Balancing Act

Large Rose Sawfly (Arge pagana) larvae

Another species of sawfly on my roses, and I believe these may only be young instars. There are two species of large rose sawfly in Britain, this species being the more common of the two, the other being Arge ochropus. Sawfly have good balancing skills, and to ward off predators they jerk their tail ends around in the air.

The adults, which I have seen flying around the garden, are quite distinctive and have bright yellow abdomens. The female makes a tiny saw cut in plant tissue in which she will lay her eggs. The resulting caterpillars will feed in groups, and they can strip leaves quite rapidly if in large numbers.

Two to three generations of Large Rose Sawfly maybe produced from May to October. They are seen in parks and gardens, also hedgerows, anywhere where rose occurs. Common and widespread.

Photographs taken July 2016, rear garden, Staffordshire.