After staying in several garden-free English B&Bs, it was delightful to arrive at Mimosa Lodge in Cowes, on the Isle of Wight, where there was a half-acre of garden AND sunshine. I could hear a number of birds as we pulled in. However, when I went outside after unpacking, I discovered that much of the wildlife activity was coming from insects in the flower bed next to the breakfast terrace, and in the nearby flowering trees.
The first thing I noticed was the darker coloration of many of the honey bees. I concluded that these must be British Black Bees (Apis mellifera mellifera).
I hadn’t been for a walk westwards from our house for a while, so I set out on Wednesday not expecting much. Turns out I saw quite a lot. First, was this young Australian Magpie (Cracticus tibicen) with a centipede in its beak. I sighted it near the bowling club, but it ignored me, being busy warbling at its parents and getting warbled back. Magpie warbling has a lovely liquid sound, so I listened until it was interrupted by other birds.
If you ever see something glinting on a flower, look more closely – it might be a Neon Cuckoo Bee (Thyreus nitidulus). It’s hard to capture its appearance in a photograph, even with a bit of post-processing. In reality, the effect in direct sunlight is more like a small string of electric-blue neon lights, as its name suggests.
We’ve had many more blue-banded bees and teddy-bear bees visiting our garden this year, mostly lured by the flowers on our rosemary bush. It was perhaps inevitable that the bees would be followed by some of their nest parasites, two of which I have never previously seen in our garden. The visits began with this Domino Cuckoo Bee (Thyreus lugubris), which I first saw on our tea-tree (Leptospermum) when it was in full bloom:
My recent story of masked bees (http://wildnsydney.com/fibs_blog/a-masked-bees-nest) began on flowers of the bloodwood Corymbia ficifolia, also called the Albany redgum. These small trees hailing from Western Australia are perhaps the most spectacular of the many eucalypts with abundant and beautiful flower displays.
This season’s display is pretty well finished now, but at its peak it attracts considerable attention from a variety of wildlife. This is primarily because of the copious amounts of nectar held in each flower’s cuplike base. Here, a honey bee and a spotted flower chafer beetle have been joined by a rainbow lorikeet. The lorikeet laps nectar and pollen with its specially adapted brush tongue:
My last entry ended with the masked bee completing her nest in a bee hotel, and the comment “all seems to have gone well.” But alas! 4 hours later a weird skinny insect drifted in to inspect the hotel.
The bloodwood trees (Corymbia ficifolia) in our area have been flowering for the last month or more. Their nectar and pollen attract a wide array of birds and insects, including this Masked Bee (possibly Hylaeus nubilosus), with her distinctive yellow markings.
I’m a notorious non-participator in group activities, but one I did participate in last month was the Autumn Wild Pollinator Survey. The results of the survey came today in an email with a link to some of the photos submitted, including some of my own.
Looking at those photos reminded me I had yet to review my portfolio for what had been a pleasant morning’s outing near the BP site at Waverton. I had taken a camera with a telephoto lens, as I didn’t want to get too close to any of the flowers lest I discouraged the pollinators.
Not long after setting out, I became aware of a beady set of eyes regarding me with deep suspicion.
I pulled my hat a little lower over the back of my neck and continued on. A little further along, I was reminded that there were others who prefer consuming pollinators to counting them:
My last post was about blue-banded bees (Amegilla cingulata), which are common in North Sydney. Less well-known, though, are their larger cousins, the delightfully named teddy bear bees (Amegilla bombiformis).
The teddy bear moniker is quite appropriate, given the honey-brown fur over their bodies. Their Latin name bombiformis (“like a bumble-bee”) is also apt given their size and stocky bodies. Here’s one on a lime flower.
“Help, there’s a demented bee following me!” The call was from my wife, at the back door.
“Don’t worry, she’s just a blue-banded bee looking for a place to lay her eggs.”
“Oh…” At which point feminine solidarity kicked in and the bee in question was allowed to continue her search of our bricks without further hindrance.
Blue-banded bees (Amegilla cingulata) are one of the commonest native bees around Sydney, and can be found in most states and PNG. Related species are found in many other parts of the world.
They are solitary bees, though they quite often seem to like nesting or roosting near other bees. They are slightly shorter and stockier than a honey bee, and below is a typical view of a foraging bee approaching rosemary flowers, tongue extended for nectar.