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Hairy footed flower bee (Anthophora plumipes) foraging on lungwort
At first glance the all black female can easily be mistaken for a queen bumblebee in the early spring, albeit she is somewhat smaller and lacks the usual yellow or white bands of some bumblebee queens that forage around the same time and even on some of the same plants. Lungwort (Pulmonaria officianalis) flowers are well known hairy footed flower bee magnets. Being bell shaped flowers, only long tongued bees can access the nectar and this bee has a visibly long tongue which on many occasions I noticed they flew around without retracting the tongues under their bodies. I watched several of these females, hovering around the flowers, with their high pitched buzzing sounds and quick darting flight, all foraging in the garden centre at Port Sunlight. There were males as well, which are so distinctly different with golden brown body hairs, fair ‘moustaches’ and long bristles on their middle legs, hence their name.
Although resembling bumblebees, they are in fact solitary bees that will live in larger communities, if conditions are right for them. They remain solitary even in larger nest site communities. I have never myself found a nest site, even though they are common in the UK and I have not seen any such bees in any of my gardens.
To get into my garden, a plant has to ‘earn its place’ and provide something for wildlife. Then I will provide it with a new home! I bought a couple of the Victoria Brooch species of pulmonaria that the bees were using at the garden centre and they have a new home! Now I need to keep an eye out for these lovely solitary bees!
Hope you enjoy the video!