Sunday, 21 June 2009

Fork-Tailed Flower Bee

There are not many UK bee species that can be readily identified based on a description. Anthophora furcata must be one of them. A few days ago I observed this bee feeding successively on Lithodora and Teucrium, both favourites of A. plumipes. My description on the day (10th June) was: 
New bee: Osmia rufa size, reddish, chestnut hair all over bee with yellow face and black antenna, long tongue.
I didn't have my camera with me - sometimes, I cannot do gardening and watching at the same time, only sometimes. A bit hopelessly I started a thread in Wild about Britain. In not even three hours after posting, I was surprised by an answer, Eucera (WAB Aculeate expert) suggested Anthophora furcata. After checking a few photos on Flickr, it became clear that this was the bee. Since then, I have spotted A. furcata on a a few occasions, so, it seems that is not a rare bee in Hull. So far, only males. Females are darker and with a reddish-orange 'tail' fringe. The species is present from early June to early August according to the Essex Field Club records - just two months! and specialises on Lamiaceae (mint family). It makes its nests by excavating tunnels in rotter wood. According to an excellent Solitary Bee site by Nigel Jones, the reason why they often go unnoticed is that they might be confused with the bumblebee Bombus pascuorum.
Today, I managed to get a few shots of a male feeding on a lovely patch of lavender, accompanied by Bombus pascuorum and B. terrestris.
A. furcata male, note how high his face is in the Lavender flower, this is due to the size of the tongue, it doesn't need to make an effort.
A different angle of the same male
The following is a shot of Bombus pascuorum for comparison. The yellow face is distinctive of male A. furcata. B. pascuorum always have black faces.

2 comments:

urbanextension said...

Haven't seen one of these in my garden. Eucera (Stuart) is great at ID'ing bees, wasps and ants. Found your post very interesting. Thanks for the info.

Blackbird said...

Yes, it's great to have such bee expert at hand! I've leart so much this couple of years I've been at WAB. Now, I have seen the female A. furcata around. They are not common though, I only see then rarely but they are very interesting bees.