A Yellow-faced Hylaeus Bee

01st July 2012
Just a few years ago, I knew very little about bees. OK, I knew about honeybees and bumblebees and that there were also a number of solitary bee species in the UK. I wasn't aware of seeing any around and just presumed that they looked something like honeybees or bumblebees.

After photographing a megachile Leaf-cutter Bee in 2010, I started getting more interested in solitary bees and in looking out for them specifically. Of course I soon realised that there's no shortage of them and that there's a wide variation in their size and shape. Some of the particulary small ones can be easily overlooked; and even if seen, the "uninitiated" would probably not guess that they were bees. Hylaeus bees are one such type

I found my first one last year. It was a male Hylaeus hyalinatus and it was in a dandelion flower. Only being 3-4mm long, black and virtually hairless, it didn't fit the "typical" bee stereotype. But a bee it was, and of a type known sometimes as white-faced or yellow-faced bees. The white facial marking of that male were quite distinctive and the shape, size and distribution of the various white marking that Hylaeus bees can have, are useful identification aids.

I saw and photographed a few more Hylaeus bees during 2011 and hadn't seen any during 2012 until yesterday. The one illustrated (left and below) was indoors on my office window. It seemed somewhat placid (probably had been trapped for a while), and I encouraged it onto a white card for these photographs. It then flew off! The white markings on this specimen, suggest to me a female Hylaeus hyalinatus. The Hylaeus species all look very similar though, so I can't be certain.

Hylaeus bees nest in dead plant stems (they particularly like bramble) or in holes and crevices in wood, rock or walls. Another difference from honeybees and bumblebees (and many other solitary bees), is that they carry nectar and pollen back to their nests in their crop. They have no hairs for this.

Posted last day of National Insect Week.


Photo comment By Adrian Knowles: They are more normally called yellow-faced bees

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