Bees in the Churchyard

20th January 2013
For the last couple of years, I've been keeping note of insects and other invertebrates that occur in my local Warwickshire churchyard. I visit every day to open the church and live just a few minutes away. This gives me plenty of opportunity to monitor how things change during the seasons and when opportunities present, to make a photographic record.

I've become particularly interested in solitary bees and during 2012 found seventeen different species at the churchyard. I'm currently preparing a display for the church, to show some of the more interesting things that I found during the year. It reminded me of some pleasant days spent photographing there and also, that I had seen seven different Andrena species. As a reminder of warmer days, here's a bit of information on the different types.

Andrena buchephala was one of the first mining bees I photographed at the churchyard. I didn't realise at the time just how scarce this bee was. In fact, the churchyard is now one of the few places in Warwickshire where it's been recorded.

Andrena bucephala is an attractive medium-sized dark bee with golden hairs. It's on the wing during April and May. There were several active nest sites during 2012, all in and around old grave sites. I'm looking forward to the spring when (hopefully), the 2013 population start emerging.

Andrena fulva the Tawny Mining Bee, is probably the most striking Andrena bee. The abdomen of the female is covered with bright golden/orange hairs and the thorax, slightly darker reddish/brown hairs. It's one of the easiest bees to recognise. I identified two nests in the churchyard, both in areas of open lawn.

This is a female Andrena dorsata. This is a widespread and common medium-sized bee with bands of white hair on the abdomen and orange hind tibiae. It flies in two broods; one in the spring and then later from July to September. I saw them feeding and resting in the churchyard, but didn't identify any nest burrows.

If you see a medium-sized black and white bee in the UK, then it's almost definitely Andrena cineraria. This is a female; the males are smaller, similarly coloured but with with a marked white "moustache". The body often shows an attractive bluey iridescence.

Andrena cineraria often nest in aggregations. The ones I photographed at my local church were just foraging individuals, but at another Warwickshire church, I've seen collections of dozens of nests.

Male Andrena bees can be quite challenging to identify, particularly lone individuals. It's much easier when they're seen in large breeding aggregations with the more easily-identified females. Some though, have some characteritic features and that includes the white lower face (clypeus) of this male Andrena chrysosceles.

This is a smallish bee that flies from March to June. Little is known of its nesting habits.

This is a female Andrena carantonica (=A. scotica). You may notice that the abdomen of this bee looks a little misshapen. This is because the bee is parasitised with a Stylops fly. I've described this in more detail in this Blog post. Stylopised bees also aften exhibit an "inter-sex" appearance and are frequently sterile. Interestingly, all the Andrena carantonica bees that I saw in the churchyard during 2012, were stylopised.

I have to admit that this Andrena bicolor female is one of my favourite bees; here photographed in the trumpet of a daffodil flower. Andrena bicolor is a small bee and both sexes have black hairs on the face and on the underside of the middle femur. It has two broods; the most abundant being on the wing March to May and a less-abundant, during June to August. Again, its nesting habits are not well understood.

I enjoyed hunting for bees during 2012 and hope that this year will bring new species for my "list". In fact, I can't wait!


Photo comment By Mandy: On April 16th I had a solitary Andrena cineraria in my garden. I have never seen one of these and when I googled it and found your site I was surprised to see Warwickshire... I live in Kineton, Warwickshire.

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