Dear Readers, it’s pouring down with rain today, but yesterday I spent half an hour sitting in the front garden and watching the bees coming and going on my lavender. Every year I love the way that it becomes such a beacon for bumblebees of all shapes and sizes, but this time I noticed this little white-faced bee zipping about between the stems of the plants. It was very difficult to get a photograph because, unlike the bumbles, he never stayed anywhere for long.
In the photo above, you can hopefully see that not only is this an extremely stripy bee with a ginger thorax, but that it has pale-green eyes! It looked to me like a miniature hairy-footed flower bee (the males also have those distinctive white faces) but it was only half the size. A quick chat with the experts on the Bees, Ants and Wasps Facebook page and I was able to identify my visitor as a four-banded flower bee (Anthophora quadrimaculata). This one is a male (only the males have the white faces), and it is a real Londoner – my Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland describes it as a ‘scarce away from Greater London’. Apparently the bees sometimes gather in large aggregations around flowers such as catmint and lavender, ’emitting a high-pitched buzz as they hover and dart rapidly between flowers’. Today it was just this one bee, but who knows if I’ll end up a whole gang of them?
Incidentally, I love that some of the neighbourhood children are stopping on their way to school to watch the bumblebees. They seem to be a great way of introducing young people to flying insects, and helping to allay some of their fears – the bees are generally stoical about being observed, and they look so benign, like flying teddy-bears. If only that general tolerance could be extended to wasps and hoverflies we’d all get on much better. And here, to put you in the mood for the weekend, is a little film I made of the bees on the lavender yesterday. I hope you enjoy it!