Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday, 23 March 2014 12:54
Last week at Flatropers Wood, we started an invertebrate survey with amazingly good results for March. We recorded 93 species, that's before adding Chis and Alice's identifications onto the list. There were lots of bees and I was determined to give them a go. I usually pass bees on to James but this time I thought I would attempt the daunting keys. All the bees I collected were Andrena and Nomada, both large genera with around 70 and 30 species respectively. Nomada are the cuckoos of Andrena and therefore they have a complex relationship.
Now I need to get all these identifications checked but I believe the two female bees above to be the larger Andrena apicata (Nb) and the smaller and commoner Andrena praecox. Both are early spring bees that can be found nectaring on sallow blossom. A critical feature is this slightly indented tubercle on the labrum of Andrena apicata. Amazingly, this was the first invertebrate we recorded of the survey!
I am confident that this is the male Andrena praecox with the large tooth on the mandibles and notched tip to the last abdominal segment. A very different looking beast to the female.
I must admit I thoroughly enjoyed keying these bees out. They took ages, I'm still not 100 % sure on all of them so I will get them checked but I have definitely caught the bee bug this weekend. A couple of on line resources that are invaluable for learning about bees are the BWARS website and Steven Falk's photostream on Flickr. We have recorded 12 species of aculeate on this survey already so make sure you make the most of the sallow blossom this spring. On Friday I saw at least four Criorhina ranunculi on sallow in the glades at Ebernoe. 30/03/2014 UPDATE: I ran the specimens past Mike Edwards and he confirmed they were all correct, not bad for a first attempt at Andrenas!