Posts Tagged: European wool carder bee
The next time you're around a lamb's ear--no, not the animal, the plant (Stachys byzantina)--watch for buzzing bees.
Especially the European wool carder bees (Anthidium manicatum). The females card the fuzz from the soft, silvery-gray leaves for their nests. Both the males and females sip nectar from the blossoms.
The males are quite territorial and bodyslam honey bees and other foraging insects. They're trying to save the sweet nectar for the females and mate with them.
It was windy this morning in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. It didn't seem to bother the patrolling European wool carder bees. But their presence--and the body slams--bothered the honey bees.
The haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis, is open from dawn to dusk. There is no admission.
European wool carder bee nectaring on Lamb's Ear. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Side view of European wool carder bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bees are quite distinguishable from European wool carder bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Don't ever call the European wool carder bee (Anthidium manicatum) a slow poke. It's not "as fast as a speeding bullet" (Superman), but close.
The males, quite territorial, chase away other pollinators, including honey bees, sweat bees and butterflies.
The European wool carder bee gets it name from the fact that females collect or "card" leaf fuzz for their nests. Today we watched the bees sip nectar from our catmint blossoms and mate.
If you've never seen them in California, that's because they haven't been here that long. Originating from Europe, these bees became established in New York in 1963, and began spreading west. Bee scientists first recorded them in California (Sunnyvale) in 2007.
Like to attract them to your yard? Plant lamb's ear (Stachys byzantia) and catmint (Nepeta).
European wool carder bee darts through catmint. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Mating European wool carder bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
After mating, these European wool carder bees broke away at lightning speed. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Talk about aggression. Talk about bullying. Talk about power maneuvers.
Ever seen male European wool carder bees (Anthidium manicutum) defend their territory? Ever seen them chase away other pollinators while they're hunting for prospective mates?
We've seen them target and bodyslam carpenter bees, alfalfa butterflies, leafcutter bees, sweat bees and honey bees while they're nectaring such blossoms as catmint, salvia and lamb's ear.
"Indeed, male wool carder bees are pretty aggressive in their hunt for females and in defense of their territories," commented native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis.
Once the male carder bee spots a female of his own species, he quickly races up to mate with her. He is aggressive with her, too.
The wool carder bee, so named because the female "cards" or removes plant fuzz to line her nest, is a native of Europe. The species was introduced to the United States (New York) in 1963, and was first identified in California (Sunnyvale) in 2007.
So, it's a relatively newcomer engaging in old ways.
Fact is, the European wool carder bee and the honey bee grew up together in the Old World and now they're realigning in the New World. (European colonists brought the honey bee to America--Jamestown colony--in 1662.)
Last weekend we watched a particularly aggresive male European wool carder bee target a honey bee while she was nectaring catmint (Nepeta). He hovered in mid-air like a helicopter and then suddenly attacked. The force of the impact toppled him over. Then, she, too, collapsed from the blow.
She dropped through the catmint leaves and lingered there for a moment before cautiously emerging. Whoa! What was that? Then she quickly buzzed off.
Undaunted, the male circled where she'd been, looking for any sign of movement.
There will be another time.
Male European carder bee (left) targets a honey bee on catmint. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Male European wool carder bee scores a direct hit. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The force knocks over the male European carder bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The impact levels the honey bee. She emerges from the blow as the male European carder bee circles to attack again. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The wool carder bees (Anthidium manicatum), so named because the females collect or "card" plant fuzz for their nests, move quickly. The males, more aggressive and very territorial, move even faster.
The wool carder bee is an Old World bee introduced into the United States (New York) in 1963. It was first discovered in California (Sunnyvale) in 2007.
Today we spotted one in our Vacaville yard that didn't seem to be in much of a hurry.
In fact, it sidled up to the catmint (Nepeta) and appeared to be having a conversation. No, not with an empty chair. With a mint leaf.
No, said native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, and one of the instructors at the annual Bee Course at the Southwestern Research Station, Portal, Ariz.; this year's course takes place Sept. 10-20.)
"This one is a boy bee," Thorp said. "Note the prominent golden fringe hairs along the side of the abdomen and the edge of the tooth-like processes at the tip of the abdomen. Also the lower part of the face (the clypeus) is mostly yellow."
So there you have it, a boy bee!
I'm still wondering why he wasn't body-slamming the honey bees and engaging in other aggressive and territorial escapades.
Male European wool carder bee heads for a catmint (Nepeta) leaf. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Male European wool carder bee on catmint (Nepeta). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
During the day, European wool carder bees (so named because the females collect or "card" plant fuzz for their nests) forage on our catmint and lamb's ear.
These bees, Anthidium manicatum, are about the size of a honey bee, but with striking yellow and black markings. From Europe and fairly new to the United States, they became established in New York in 1963, and then began spreading west. Eventually this exotic species made its way to California. Bee scientists first identified it in California (Sunnyvale) in 2007.
"The females nest in convenient cavities such as old beetle holes and hollow stems," according native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor entomology at UC Davis. Its plant preferences include lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantine, in the mint family Lamiaceae), a perennial grown for its fuzzy, silvery gray-green foliage.
At night, the females return to their nests. But for the boys, it's the boys' night out.
The "boy bees," as Thorp calls them, "sleep wherever they can."
Every night and early morning, we see a male sleeping inside one of our native bee condos. This particular condo, located several feet above our catmint patch, is drilled with "large" holes to accommodate the blue orchard bee (Osmia), a mason bee. The holes really aren't that large, but they are compared to our bee condo for the smaller leafcutting bees.
For awhile, our mason bee condo drew nothing but earwigs. Not one blue orchard bee (BOB).
Now we have a exotic species sleeping in a native bee condo.
What a treat! At least we have one tenant!
When we took his picture in the early morning, the European wool carder bee didn't budge. Guess he's saving his energy to chase the girls around in the catmint patch.
This bee condo, meant for blue orchard bees, is attracting a European wool carder bee, Anthidium manicatum. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of a sleeping European wool carder bee, Anthidium manicatum. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
European wool carder bee, Anthidium manicatum, in flight, heading for lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)