have wonderful names – like the hairy-footed flower bee (Anthophora plumipes), for instance.
During my talks, I sometimes play a little game where I ask questions, and if a member of the audience answers the question correctly, they get a packet of wildflower seeds as a prize. One of my questions is: Which of these names does NOT belong to a real species of bee?:
Lots of people choose the first one, presumably thinking that Hairy-footed flower bee, is too fanciful a name (the correct answer is ‘the black-kneed bee – a name I invented).
Anthophora plumipes is a solitary species, although where favourable nesting conditions exist, they may be found in communal groups.
A similar species in Britain is Anthophora retusa, although it is much rarer.
The video below shows a female foraging on pulmonaria, a favourite plant of this species, and very useful in the bee-friendly garden, because being an early spring flowering plant, it provides an early source of food for bees.
Yes, but then bees are covered in hair. The male of this species does, however, on close examination, have particularly hairy feet and legs – which have a feathery appearance. I like to think of this bee as being a bit like 'the hobbit' of the bee world!
Thanks to Liz Fenn for this image of a Hairy Footed Flower Bee (female).
Anthophora plumipes may be seen from February or March when females emerge from hibernation. Females are black and are sometimes mistaken for bumblebees, although I tend to think they can be mistaken for black hoverflies.
The males emerge about 2 weeks later, and being quite different to females in colouring (brownish-grey) they could be confused with a bumblebee species - the common carder bee (Bombus pascuorum), or even the bee fly.
The bees like to nest in soft mortar or sometimes in the ground.
I didn’t find it easy to capture these bees on camera, for two reasons. Firstly, the angle of the sun made it difficult for me to know whether the bee was in the frame or not.
Secondly, note the flight. This species has a swift, darting flight, with frequent hovering.
Thirdly, I only have a basic little camera!
In the end, I have resorted to uploading 3 videos.
Other plants enjoyed by the species include dead nettle, ajuga, comfrey and other borage species.
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