Megachile ligniseca – Fulbourn Fen

 

Description and notes
One of a suite of eight superficially similar species. All are medium-sized to large solitary bees nesting in holes, largely in various forms of timber either in standing deadwood or fence posts.

Distribution
An uncommon species more frequently found in the south-east of mainland Britain. It has a more scattered distribution further north, seemingly reaching its extremity in north Yorkshire and two recent records from Staffordshire. There is also a cluster of records from south Wales though apparently absent from north Wales. Also recorded from Ireland but apparently absent from the Channel Islands. Occurs in western and central Europe, also in Finland and parts of European Russia.
Status (in Britain only)
This species is not regarded as being scarce or threatened.
Habitat
Since it is a species that utilises bramble, thistles and Himalayan balsam it is likely to be found at ruderal-dominated sites. It has also been found on post-industrial sites where it was recorded feeding on Himalayan balsam and found frequently flying about standing deadwood and bramble thickets.
Flight period
This is a summer-flying species with early records from mid-June to as late as early September. The majority of records however fall between early July and mid-August.
Nesting biology
Nests are most frequently encountered in timber such as old trees and fence posts. One nest has been found in an iron tube. The nesting holes are typically of a large diameter and the cells constructed of sycamore leaves. It is surmised that other plant species are used though no evidence of this has been recorded to date.
Flowers visited
It is known to visit thistles and bramble and has also been observed visiting Himalayan balsam (pers. obs.) though no information was obtained on whether this was for nectar or pollen.
Parasites
There is no information on any parasites, though it should be assumed that M. ligniseca does have a parasite and that it is highly likely to be a Coelioxys in parallel with other Megachile species.

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Megachile versicolor – Fulbourn Fen

Description and notes
An identification key is available (Else, 1999). Females from the British mainland have the scopal hairs on sterna 5-6 black. Those from the Isle of Man and from Ireland have them extensively golden red, although the black form has been seen in Ireland too.

Distribution
Recorded from southern England northwards to the coast of south-west Scotland. The majority of records are from south-east England along the south coast and up to Bristol. Also recorded from Ireland but apparently absent from the Channel Islands.
Distributed throughout much of western and central Europe, Lithuania and Finland.
Status (in Britain only)
This species is not regarded as being scarce or threatened.
Habitat
Found in a variety of habitats from heathland to brownfield sites and formal gardens to ruderal verge habitats.
Flight period
This species in on the wing from June through to September with a large proportion of records in July.
Nesting biology
Tree trunks, dead plant stems (including bramble), and roofing timbers are all noted as providing suitable locations for nests (Else, 1999).
Flowers visited
Bird’s-foot-trefoil, thistles and bramble are noted as being visited by this species.
Parasites
Coelioxys inermis (Kirby) has been recorded as a cleptoparasite. The pteromalid wasp
Pteromalus apum (Retzius) has been reared from this species (G R Else, pers comm.)

Andrena trimmerana- Fulborn Fen

Possibly a county first

Description and notes
This mining bee has both a spring and a summer brood. These differ morphologically, especially in the male (for example, first brood specimens have a strong, conspicuous genal spine which is lacking in summer brood individuals of this sex). In addition, second brood specimens are often more extensively marked with red on the basal tergites and sternites than their spring counterparts. It is possible that these broods are actually distinct species and research, involving the cytogenetics of each brood, is still ongoing. Indeed, the first brood was formerly considered to be a separate species, Andrena spinigera

Status (in Britain only)
This species is not regarded as being scarce or threatened.
Habitat
Generally distributed, having been recorded from coastal landslips and cliffs and, inland, from heaths, open woodland, chalk grassland, fens, commons and gardens.
Flight period
Bivoltine; mid March to the end of April, and again from July to late September.
Nesting biology
The species apparently nests singly, not in aggregations (Kocourek, 1966; Dylewska, 1987). In England, nests have been found in banks, slopes and bare vertical soil (e.g. Beavis, 2007). Communal nesting, as occurs in its close relatives, Andrena carantonica Pérez and A. bucephala Stephens, has not been confirmed for A. trimmerana.
Flowers visited
It has been recorded from a buttercup, willows, bramble, rhododendron, blackthorn, gorse, alexanders and dandelion.
Parasites
Nomada marshamella (Kirby) has been reported as a cleptoparasite of A. trimmerana (Perkins, 1919). Occasionally specimens are found which are stylopised, apparently by Stylops aterrimus Newport (Kinzelbach, 19

Harpactus tumidus- Fulbourn Fen

Harpactus tumidus

Description and notes
Previously classified in the genera Alysson and Dienoplus. A small red and black wasp, typically with a white scutellum and three white spots on the abdomen rendering it distinctive. Usually encountered in dry sandy locations where it is a frog-hopper predator.

Distribution
Recorded widely but sparingly across England and Wales, and extending as far north as Grantown, Elgin in Scotland. Also the Channel Islands (Jersey and Guernsey) and a few sites in Ireland (Waterford, Wexford and Wicklow). A southern bias is exhibited and most records are concentrated within coastal districts or heathy districts inland. Local in southern England, becoming very scarce in the northern part of its range, though with a cluster of recent records in Yorkshire through the efforts of M E Archer. It is rarely common anywhere, though it is easily overlooked. Overseas, it is widely reported from north and central Europe; also southern Siberia and Japan (Lomholdt, 1975-76).
Status (in Britain only)
This species is not regarded as being scarce or threatened.
Habitat
Recorded from heathland, coastal dunes, coastal landslips, open areas in woodland, sandpits, embankments and cuttings. Within these locations, it is usually observed running rapidly over the ground or low vegetation in sparsely vegetated or short-cropped areas fully exposed to the sun. Females are likely to require taller herbage nearby for hunting.
Flight period
Univoltine; exceptionally from late May, but normally from mid-June to mid-September. Nesting biology and prey collected Nests are excavated in dry sandy soil and consist of several cells at the end of a short tunnel. Individual cells are stocked with 5 or 6 frog-hoppers, such as Philaenus and Aphrodes species; both adults and nymphs being used. The female closes the nest entrance with sand between hunting trips. (Hamm & Richards, 1930; Lomholdt, 1975-76).
Flowers visited
Umbellifers such as wild carrot and wild parsnip.
Parasites
The nyssonine wasp Nysson dimidiatus and chrysidid wasp Hedychridium roseum. Additional Nysson species attack H. tumidus abroad

Argogorytes mystaceus – Fulbourn Fen

A first for me

Distribution
Widespread in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland (Richards 1980). Clearly less frequently found in northern parts of northern England, and Scotland. Abroad, the species is found throughout much of the Palaearctic region, eastwards to the Pacific Ocean (Lomholdt, 1975-76).
Status (in Britain only)
This species is not regarded as being scarce or threatened.
Habitat
These wasps occur in sunny places, not necessarily sandy, and particularly in deciduous woodland and edges. Very much a species of sunny glades with tall, rank vegetation (M Edwards, pers. comm.).
Flight period
Univoltine; late April to June, exceptionally to September (Richards, 1980).
Prey collected
The species preys on frog-hopper nymphs (Homoptera: Cercopidae), especially those of Philaenus spumarius. The Argogorytes female is reported to land on the plant stem, walk to the spittle and then plunge her legs and sting into it (Adlerz, cited by Evans, 1966).
Nesting biology
The nest is dug in soil in dry banks in moist woodland glades (M Edwards, pers. comm.). It consists of a main burrow reaching a length of 10 cm vertically into the ground and then continuing in a fairly horizontal plane where there are several cells (Lomholdt, 1975-76). After the initial cell is constructed, prey is brought to the nest, carried in flight between the middle legs. The egg is laid on the outside of one of the hind coxae of the first prey in the cell (unusual in the Gorytini, where it is usually laid on the last). The burrow is left open whilst provisioning takes place. From 19-27 bug nymphs may be provisioned per cell (according to Adlerz) and then the next cell is constructed.
Flowers visited
Females have been sighted visiting wood spurge and honeydew on sweet chestnut leaves (pers. obs.). They are also known to visit umbellifer flowers. Males are important polllinators of the fly orchid (Ophrys insectifera). The male seeks out the flower mainly by its scent, which closely resembles the female sex attractant pheromone, and attempts to copulate with it. During this process the male receives one, or both, pollinia, which may then be transferred to the stigma of another flower (Kullenberg, 1961; Evans & Eberhard, 1970).

Andrena praecox (Fulbourne fen)

Andrena praecox

Description
Length 8 to 11 mm. This is a blackish bee with grey hairs. The female having more body hairs than the male.
Habitat
Heathland and open woodland where there is sufficient sallow to support populations of this bee.
When to see it
Early March to the end of April or early May.
Life History
Nests in colonies.
UK Status
Rather local, but often common where it does occur, throughout much of southern Britain, as far north as south Yorkshire.

Mating Myopa Hirsuta (Fulbourn Fen)

Mating Myopa hirsuta

Habitat
Often seen on the catkins and flowers that attract solitary spring breeding bees which they are thought to parasitize.
When to see it
Myopa species may emerge as early as April.
Life History
Suspected of parasitizing spring breeding solitary bees.