Early summer bees and wasps

Early summer bees and wasps

Karen McCartney shares some more bee and wasp species to be on the look out for as we enter summer.

As we move into summer the early spring species make way for the summer bees and wasps. We see lots of bumblebee workers doing the work now and are seeing some male bumblebees at our flowers too.

Bombus hortorum

Bombus hortorum by Colin Le Boutillier

A regular visitor to my garden now the honeysuckle is in flower is Bombus hortorum. With the longest tongue and face of our bumblebee species Bombus hortorum is strongly associated with deeper flowers like honeysuckle, dead nettles and foxgloves with workers visiting a range of flowers such as teasels, red clover and thistles too. A regular visitor of gardens here in Greater Manchester and Lancs. You can often see the long face and tongue as they ready themselves as they approach the flowers so try and spot it.

Hylaeus hyalinatus (female)

Hylaeus hyalinatus by Sabine Ellen

Moving on to a much smaller bee and one that is flying in my garden at the moment are the Hylaeus, or yellow faced bees. So called for the yellow/creamy markings on the faces , more extensive in males. In Sweden they are referred to as citronbin - lemon bees due to the faint aroma of lemon these bees emit. Just mms long and relatively hairless they are often overlooked. They have no pollen collecting hairs to speak of as they carry pollen back to the nest in the crop. They can always be found on wild geranium or chives in my garden with the males busily patrolling looking for a mate.

Megachile centuncularis

Megachile centuncularis by Karen McCartney

Another lovely summer bee that is just starting to appear in my garden is Megachile centuncularis. Also known as leafcutters due to the nesting behaviour of the females. The female will cut sections of leaf to take back to the nest and use to construct nest cells. Another bee with a brush of pollen collecting hairs on the underside of the abdomen with big, powerful mandibles for cutting leaf sections. In summer I find them all day on the ragwort in my garden and it is amusing to watch how they lift their abdomen high as they move around the flowers. Among this genus there are aerial nesting but also ground nesting species associated with sandy habitats. You may be lucky to find the aerial nesters visiting your bee hotel so look out for little plugs of leaf over the next few weeks.

Pemphredon lugubris

Pemphredon lugubris by Stephen Boulton

I recorded this wasp for the first time in my garden last week with much excitement, hunting on dog rose although I have found it at other places nearby. A solitary species that hunts mainly aphids to stock her nest but has also been observed using planthoppers. A common species that nests in dead or decaying wood and is found in a variety of habitats wherever dead and decaying wood can be found and is around from now until about September so keep an eye out for them too. 

Many thanks to the members of UK Bees, Wasps and Ants for the use of their images and to BWARS for information. Check out the species accounts for these bees and wasps on the BWARS website for more information and other resources.