Friday, April 22, 2011

It's a Hard Life being a Miner

Tawny mining bees often visit our garden, sometimes feeding on the gooseberry flowers in spring, but I've never managed to find evidence of their nests here. But they must nest somewhere fairly close, because we also receive regular visits from two of their parasites.

Bee-flies lay their eggs near tawny mining bee nests and their larvae crawl down into the underground nest chamber, eat their host's grub and monopolise the store of pollen that the bee lays down for it. Bee-flies are relentlessly active, which means it's almost as difficult to photograph one at rest as one in flight. But this one paused just long enough on the fence to have its photo taken, displaying its furry bee-mimic body and long straight proboscis, used for sucking nectar from deep within flowers.

And this is another enemy of the tawny mining bee, feeding on our forget-me-nots. It's a cuckoo bee (Nomada sp.) - a solitary bee that also behaves like a cuckoo, laying its eggs in bee-fly nest holes where its larva steals its host's pollen supply. Notice that it has few body hairs and no pollen combs and baskets on its legs for collecting pollen to feed its offspring; that's done by the unfortunate tawny mining bee.

6 comments:

  1. Phil have you a new camera? Not only do you inform but the last few posts seem to be sharper.
    I love this blog. Thanks.

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  2. Amazing photos. I enjoy reading your posts.

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  3. I shall just have to keep my fingers crossed for the health of 'my' Tawny Mining Bees.

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  4. Same old cameras, Adrian. The top one is with my pocket Pentax W20 which focusses down to 1cm. and is incredibly convenient to carry around. The other two are with my old Nikon D70 and Tamron 180mm. macro, which is heavy and very awkward to use - it has very shallow depth of field (even when used on the 35mm. film camera it was designed for) and is hard to hold still - so I mostly tend to use it in the garden, where I can usually find something to rest it on.

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  5. Thanks lotusleaf, we've had a lot of bright sunshine recently - ideal for this kind of photography.

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  6. Hope they manage to nest successfully, Toffeeapple....

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