Sometimes organising a wildlife-spotting event is a tense matter of hope and prayer that the featured species will actually turn up.
No such problems yesterday, luckily dodging the showers, for a warm blue-skied autumn afternoon looking for the Ivy bee Colletes hederae, with colleagues from Exmouth Local Group.
This handsome solitary bee was busy in numbers, swarming at ankle height round the coastal grasslands of the Maer, and the mini-quarries of bare earth where it excavates its nests. Faster than the eye can follow, only when stopped for some digging were there chances for a good view, and non-blurred photos.
|Head in the sand - busy burrowing out a nest site|
Not recognised as a separate species until 1993 (from the similar C. halophilus and C. succinctus), and first sighted in the UK in Dorset and at a single location in Devon in 2001, it has gradually been spreading its range since. Ivy Hedera helix , which flowers late in the year, is its predominant, and often sole, pollen and nectar source of choice; hence, in sync, the Ivy bee is also late flying; in more sense than one, it's our latest solitary bee.
Although solitary, where the habitat is suitable, as it definitely is at the Maer, large numbers can nest in aggregations, a fascinating, often overlooked, spectacle, right under one's feet.
|Potted (natural) history: Ivy bee reveals itself to budding naturalist|
From the nesting site on to the other main component of the life cycle, stopping off to check out a dense clump of ivy. Ivy bees were conspicuous foraging here, alongside numerous other bees, wasps, hoverflies and other insects, at this important late food source. A successful event, which the wildlife also turned up to.
|Eristalis hoverfly (note looped vein in wing)|
Some further information about the Ivy bee:
- BWARS webpage and info sheet
- National mapping project
- Video of the amazing 'mate balling' behaviour taken in east Devon