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.