Lots of Nomada Cuckoo Bees

23rd May 2012
With the hotter and dryer weather during the last couple of days, I've noticed a significant increase in the number of Nomada cuckoo bees I'm seeing locally, and a decrease in their hosts; Andrena mining bees. Perhaps the Andrena females are mostly off foraging and the males starting to die off.

The Nomada I'm seeing large numbers of is Nomada goodeniana (image top, left). This is a large and striking-looking Nomada with a black thorax with two yellow bars behind the head, two yellow spots at the base and yellow tegulae (where the wings join). The abdomen is yellow and black striped without any red areas. They parasitise the nests of the mining bee Andrena nigroaenea. The Nomada in the image is investigating an Andrena nest burrow in my front garden. The colony has been very active this year.

Another Nomada I've seen quite a few of is Nomada marshamella (image, second from top). This is similar in size and general appearance to Nomada goodeniana. Again, a large Nomada with a strongly-marked yellow and black banded abdomen. The thorax is dark; the female having two prominent yellow spots at the base. The tegulae are reddish with N. marshamella though, rather than yellow. It is a cleptoparasite of the mining bee Andrena carantonica (=A. scotica).

In not quite such large numbers is Nomada fabriciana (image third from top). This is the first year I've (knowingly) seen them. In the last couple of days though, I've seen them every time I've visited my local churchyard. They have been very active, flying around in the grass and proving very difficult to photograph. I haven't had the identification verified yet, but they seem to fit the descriptions I've read. They are small with a very dark head and thorax. The abdomen is predominantly red, with varying amount of black and yellow. The tegulae are reddish and the antenna typically tri-coloured. They parasitise the nests of the small mining bee Andrena bicolor.

Bottom left is Nomada hirtipes. These are scarce in Warwickshire, being found in just a few sites. They are parasites of the equally scarce mining bee Andrena bucephala. They are a smallish dark Nomada. The predominantly red abdomen is very apparent when in flight. The female has a prominent pale yellow spot on each side of the abdomen.

I have also seen Nomada flava (or similar) too, in large numbers. Haven't managed any decent photographs in the last few days though. They have been exceptionally difficult to photograph.

There are more Nomada images in the Image Gallery.

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