in the kingdom of the solitary bee

I have spent the majority of my time over the last couple of days in the garden enjoying lovely summer sunshine.

I am redeveloping a flower bed-that is the principal excuse for being outside, but in reality it is just glorious  being in the garden in summertime.

Quite a lot of my attention has been grabbed by the insect life, especially this little bee, who has been an almost constant companion. This is a male Megachile species bee-a leaf cutter, so called because they cut neat round holes out of rose and other plant leaves and use them to partition their nest cells and seal the entrances to the nests. The females cut them into almost perfect circles, carry them to their nests and roll them into a cigar shape, before provisioning the tube with pollen and then laying an egg. Great video of this here.

The male bee spent the afternoon patrolling a territory. Starting on the poppy seed head, which was used as a basking place, he checked the adjacent clump of Campanula persicifolia, flew about 8 feet to another clump of Campanula, from there to a mixed clump of campanula and delphiniums, then to a more distant group of Campanula and finally back to the starting point. Sometimes he would feed from the bells of the Campanula, sometimes rest on the concrete step or the patio steps and later in the afternoon, took in a low growing group of Campanula portenschlagiana. The whole patrol route forms a rough figure of eight circuit, and all the flowers he checked were blue. Other colours of similar height plants were available.

When he came across bee flies or honeybees they were chased away, quite aggressively, and he kept this up throughout the afternoon. It was only in the early evening I noticed females-including one feeding on a blue geranium outside his patrol zone-and whilst he tolerated them, did not actively seek them out.

The females are investigating the  bee box, but this afternoon has been cloudy and there is no sign of nest building yet. Perhaps tomorrow will produce more activity-I found it fascinating.


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