don’t mess with me….

This is a male wool carder bee, Anthidium manicatum, looking every inch the urban tough guy. I spotted them last year in the garden, hanging around a patch of stachys lanata, the silvery grey Lamb’s ears, like teenagers on a night out in a country town.

I was lucky enough to see this one today,  sitting on a paving slab, trying to warm up a bit. It is cool here, very cool for June, but the slab had been in the sun for a few minutes and must have been warmer than the surroundings.

Wool carder bees are one of the feisty members of the solitary bee clan. Not to people you understand,  but it will vigorously establish and defend a territory against other insects. It will set about and knock to the ground any other bees or hoverflies, and even crush them with the three spikes on its tail if they stray into the Carder’s territory. There is a very readable, interesting and illustrated account of the behaviour of wool carder bees here.

I am just hoping a female turns up for him and even better, she nests in the bee hotel. Although any Carders will have to get a move on now the Leacutters are just starting to get busy. Spaces in the Spideracres  hotels will be at a premium this year!

You can readily recognise them by their strong, rapid flight and feisty behaviour, and those distinctive yellow spots on the abdomen, especially if you have Lamb’s ears in your garden.


10 thoughts on “don’t mess with me….

  1. I’ll have to look out for them – I suspect something other than Mullein moth caterpillars is having a go at the giant Verbascum leaves.

    I still feel guilty that I moved an Agave from a small pot to the centre of a large planter and a shower of perfect ovals of fresh rose leaves fluttered all around – Leafcutter bee nests! I do hope they’ve used other pots in my greenhouse – I not disturbing any more just in case.


  2. your illustrations of different types of bees are really useful – I am just starting to differentiate them from all being ‘bumble bees’. More please!

      1. Hi Michele-I can answer the first part of your question fairly easily. A bumblebee, like a honey bee, is a social insect with a social structure of Queen,male and workers occupying a nest, the workers being the daughters of the Queen. The colonies are much smaller than honeybees-usually between 40 and 150. Solitary bees, are just that=single females and males that behave in a rather bird-like way, with the female making a nest and laying eggs and the males having little to do with the process beyond fertilising the eggs, although they too will sometimes establish a territory, like the Wool carder bee. In this country there are 25 species of bumblebees but over 200 species of solitary bees. All are important pollinators of flowers and crops and thus can be considered “good” bugs in the garden.
        I guess the simple answer to the second part of your question is a creature that does little damage. My feeling is if you encourage them all, they eventually sort the balance out!

  3. Snap! I’ve started seeing Wool-carder bees for the first time in my garden this year (and am about to do a blog post about them). Saw the males last week and this week the females are carding the tomentum from the Stachys plants to use in their nest. Not sure my bee hotel will be big enough for their nest though.. as from what I’ve seen they need a lot of room and I hear you know my friend Val! What a small world! Jane

    1. Hi Jane and welcome! I haven’t been lucky enough to see a female yet but let’s face it, it’s not been a great week for bee spotting. Thanks for the links-all information gratefully received. Yes, I know Val a little-what a talented lady! And indeed it does seem like a small world.

    1. Unfortunately we are both still waiting for a female Laura. I suspect the local bee lasses are tucked up out of the rain and wind!. I am glad you are enjoying the posts-I have been decorating this week so not much to report!

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