Hairy-footed Bees in Exeter

Field Paintings

Last spring I carried on my observations of the hairy-footed bees Anthophora plumipes in the ancient cob wall at Alphington Church in Exeter. As usual the bees started flying in early March and I visited on the first real sunny day in the month. There was plenty of activity from the bees and the hungry Segestria florentina spiders which were lurking in their silk-lined tubes in the wall. As the bees returned to holes in the wall to roost in the late afternoon the spiders had a field day. I saw several bees end up in the metallic green jaws of the spiders and managed to video a near miss – watch here

Observations were also made in our garden in Buckfastleigh where I have planted out plenty of lungwort Pulmonaria to attract the bees and have constructed some cob bricks for them to nest in. I was also involved making a film about the bees for Springwatch – watch here.

There is always something new to learn when studying insects and this spring I found out why the hairy footed bee males had such hairy legs. They use them during courtship tapping them on to the females head whilst mounted. It is not known exactly what is happening here but the males may be passing a pheromone scent to the female to entice her to mate. Watch video.

Later in the spring I was able to watch the females sealing up their nests in my cob brick, they collected water from somewhere close by then wetted the mud and covered the nest entrance. They often used their tongue in this process and moulded the concave seal with their bodies by turning somersaults. Watch video here.

As I write this in Sepember the bees will be emerging inside the brick but will not break out of the seals until the first sunny days of spring, I look forward to seeing and hearing these fabulous bees again then.

John Walters

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