Most Viewed Images of 2012

19th February 2013
With the 2013 insect season just about to start, I though it would be interesting to see which of my 2012 insect images had the most views. These are the ones that appeared particularly popular, so I've added a bit of information about each.

Osmia leaiana Bee
This is Osmia leaiana, a species related to the larger and more common Osmia bicornis (=O. rufa); the Red Mason Bee. Both often use holes/crevices in old wood and walls to construct their nests and can, like this one, be attracted to artificial "bee hotels". Unlike the Red Mason Bee though that uses mud to create brood cell partitions and to seal the nest entrance, Osmia leaiana uses chewed leaves. I waited for ages to catch this female leaving the nest hole in a "hotel" I designed for use in our garden.

Ectemnius Wasp
What is immediately apparent about this wasp is its very large eyes and jaws. Good eyesight is essential for this wasp's hunting strategy; catching flies, including hoverflies, on the wing. Captured prey are subdued with a sting and then used to provision the wasp's nests. Nest tunnels are excavated (using those powerful jaws), in fairly large pieces of dead wood such as stumps, fallen tree trunks, rotting logs and occasionally building timbers. The developing larvae feed on the flies.

There are around ten species of Ectemnius wasps in the UK and getting a reliable species identification from photographs can be difficult. After reviewing lots of online resources though, I'm thinking with its size (around 12mm), silvery hairs on the clypeus (lower face), solid yellow bar on the rear thorax and entire yellow bands on the abdomen; it might be Ectemnius cephalotes.

Harlequin Ladybird
The Harlequin Ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) spread to the UK from Europe in 2004. Since then it has expanded rapidly northwards, now covering most areas in England and Wales with a few sightings in Scotland and Ireland. Its name comes from the fact that it exists in many colour forms. In fact, it has been recorded in 100 different colour patterns. Some specimens are reddish-orange with black dots, others black with red patches. They exist in three main forms; succinea, spectabilis and conspicua. This is the spectabilis form.

Nomada Cuckoo Bee
The bee genus Nomada contains a couple of dozen species in the UK. They are cleptoparasites of other solitary bees; particularly of the Andrena Mining Bees. Cleptoparasitic bees "steal" the nests of other bees and are often referred to as Cuckoo Bees.

This is a male Nomada fucata. Note the green eyes, rather hairy face and thirteen segments to the antennae. Nomada fucata parasitises the nests of the Yellow-legged Mining Bee Andrena flavipes. Male bees don't sting, so it's safe handling. Solitary bee females are capable of stinging, but they rarely do. Even if they do, it's very mild.

Andrena Mining Bee
I saw an occasional Andrena nigroaenea mining bee in my front garden in 2011 and also one sighting of its cuckoo bee Nomada goodeniana. I decided that during 2012, I would look out for nesting activity, and was not disappointed. I saw my first Andrena nigroaenea female emerge on 20th March and soon there was considerable activity, with several dozen new nest burrows being constructed.

Illustrated is a male. Males are smaller and slimmer than the females and the face much hairier (common in many male bee species).

2012 was the first year of my website and blog. It will be interesting to see what insects I find this year and what will be popular with visitors during 2013!

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