Flower bee Friday

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Gifted an unforecast sunny day I decided to go owling, but due to a combination of the owls keeping their distance and the light being highly changeable, I didn’t have the best afternoon with the camera. So my favourite photo of the day has turned out to be this hairy-footed flower bee, which I managed to stalk to a rest stop in the back garden before I went out.

Probably my favourite of all the solitary bees (though the splendid wool carder bee runs it close), Anthophora plumipes is also one of the earliest bees to appear here, and therefore a welcome sign of spring. I find their plump little bodies and hairy feet quite enchanting, and I love the males’ yellow faces too – even if their mouth parts are a little alarming at first sight. The females are less distinctive as they’re almost entirely black, apart from their hind tibiae which are covered with gingery brown hair.

As usually happens, the males have emerged first, and are working themselves into a lather trying to find females; they’re on almost constant patrol, only basking or feeding very briefly when their energy runs low. When fresh they move so quickly and erratically that it’s very hard to photograph them in flight, or sometimes even to keep them in view, but luckily they buzz so loudly that it’s relatively easy to track them by sound. I only found three males today, but more will appear over the coming days, and they’ll become increasingly competitive as they try to beat each other to the emerging females. The sole function of the males is to copulate with the females and thus pass on their DNA, but each female will only consent to mate once, so for these little bees it really is a question of survival of the fittest – and luckiest.