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Identify an odd bee?

 
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Little Angel
House Bee


Joined: 26 Dec 2012
Posts: 17
Location: UK, Hertfordshire, St Albans

PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2015 11:32 am    Post subject: Identify an odd bee? Reply with quote

It's been a while since I've visited, but I have an identification question.

The backstory:

Sadly there are few bees in my back garden and the majority are bumbles.

The other day, what appeared to be a large dark glossy and relatively hairless bee slightly larger than a honey. It was attracted, like most of the bees in the garden, to my volunteer purple toadflax.

It's behaviour, however, was very peculiar. It was an excellent hoverer. It hovered around the toadflax, essentially standing guard. Whenever another bee came close, it would give it a buzzing fly-by and try to scare it off. If another bee landed on the flowers, the bully of this story would dive bomb the working bee and continue to kamikaze into the bee head first until the working bee stopped and flew off, whereupon the bully would try to chase it until far away from the toadflax.

This meant I went from a few bees to one big black bully bee.

Oddly, this bee never seemed to work the flowers. Occasionally it would land for a split second, seemed to sniff the flower and the go back to hovering and guarding.

For the entire day it never left toadflax.

Now, I'll admit I wasn't being too careful, as this bellicose bee was somewhat annoying me, but certainly not deliberately, whilst watering, I knocked the bee out of the air with spray from the hosepipe. My natural instinct was to rescue the villain, but then the curiosity got the best of me, and I gathered it up, put it in a jar and popped it into the freezer.

When I see the photos, the bee looks surprisingly hairy and a bit more tan, as in the air it looked glossy and black. Also, now dead and post-frozen, it's pose is much more curled up, so doesn't seem to give the same impression as it lorded itself over the toadflax. It seems to simply look like a bee to me in the photos. I was hoping for it to be as stunningly different in the photos as it was in the air. So far, no similar bee has returned. I was hoping, that perhaps someone could shed some light on either this particular creature or its peculiar behaviour.

Morbidly, I've kept the specimen for now, so if I need to take alternative/better photos, I can.









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trekmate
Golden Bee


Joined: 30 Nov 2009
Posts: 1123
Location: UK, North Yorkshire, Bentham

PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2015 12:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Don't know the bee, but the behaviour sounds like a male defending food for a hoped for queen. Many male solitary bees choose a patch of flowers that will later attract an un-mated queen and defend them for her. He gets to mate, she gets a food source to fatten up to overwinter.
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stevecook172001
Site Admin


Joined: 19 Jul 2013
Posts: 443
Location: Loftus, Cleveland

PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2015 12:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would think it was a species of solitary bee making its living according to its evolutionary niche. As per previous poster, it sounds like it was a male defending territory in order to attract a female. I am also personally disinclined to view such behaviour as this bee exhibited as "bullying" or "villainous". These are human moral concepts and have no place in wider nature. It was just doing its evolutionary thing.

Don't misunderstand me, if I had a honey-bee-hive who productivity was being significantly hampered by such creatures, I might be inclined to "encourage" them to move on. But, that is just pragmatics and, in any event, I would hope there was enough to go round such that action was not required.
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Little Angel
House Bee


Joined: 26 Dec 2012
Posts: 17
Location: UK, Hertfordshire, St Albans

PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2015 7:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

stevecook172001 wrote:
I would think it was a species of solitary bee making its living according to its evolutionary niche. As per previous poster, it sounds like it was a male defending territory in order to attract a female. I am also personally disinclined to view such behaviour as this bee exhibited as "bullying" or "villainous". These are human moral concepts and have no place in wider nature. It was just doing its evolutionary thing.

Don't misunderstand me, if I had a honey-bee-hive who productivity was being significantly hampered by such creatures, I might be inclined to "encourage" them to move on. But, that is just pragmatics and, in any event, I would hope there was enough to go round such that action was not required.


I am extremely sad that you've completely misinterpreted what I was trying to say because of my choice of words. I use words every day in my job to communicate, make people understand and with hope find some happiness in life. If I have waxed too dramatic, then my humble apologies. On the other hand, when talking with humans, I have a tendency to use human terms in a human language. At the time of posting, with nearly 300 views, I would hope my description of the bee's behaviour was not lost on any of the readers because of my choice of style, even if the intent was lost on some. Having a deep background in the natural sciences before choosing a career in drama, I have a keen understanding of evolution and the niches it creates. This stills doesn't stop authors of scientific papers from using terms like "the horseshoe crab failed in its attempt to colonise land, only to slink back into the brackish shallow waters of the estuary". Evolution, of course, has no intent. This type of writing does, however, help convey what happened according to the fossil record, albeit in skewed form, while at the same time giving the audience an enjoyable read.
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Little Angel
House Bee


Joined: 26 Dec 2012
Posts: 17
Location: UK, Hertfordshire, St Albans

PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2015 7:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

trekmate wrote:
Don't know the bee, but the behaviour sounds like a male defending food for a hoped for queen. Many male solitary bees choose a patch of flowers that will later attract an un-mated queen and defend them for her. He gets to mate, she gets a food source to fatten up to overwinter.


Trekmate: Thanks for the reply. That makes a lot of sense. I was finding it hard to understand how this behaviour would fit into any hive based scenario. It wasn't as if the guard's sisters were harvesting like mad, and the bee had driven every other bee from the garden, leaving no bee to harvest from the flowers. I also noticed that it ignored all non-bees that were visiting the toadflax, as there are always a few bee-like flies.

I do feel a little sorry for the poor man bugger. I'd been trying to get a good look at it all day. When I say it there in the grass overwhelmed by my watering, I did bend down to rescue it. Sadly, I was overcome by curiosity in some strange Victorian kind of way... and the rest is history.

Thanks for your insight.
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