There didn't seem to be a lot of birds around this morning, well not of the migrant variety. I did, however, enjoy a good walk along the Lees with Jack Chantler trying to get to grips with identifying some of the bees and bee lookalikes.
Common Carder-bee (Bombus pascuorum)
Armed with a rather good identification guide we had a good look at this striking Bumble Bee. It is a Common Carder-bee and a rather striking one. Queens, workers and males are almost completely brown or ginger. However, the shade varies significantly, depending on the location. Some have abdomens which are very dark, while the abdomens of others can be quite light. It is the only common UK bumblebee that is mostly brown or ginger.
The queens emerge from hibernation from March to June and workers are present from April onwards, and males and new females from July to October. The species collects pollen from many species of flower.
Common Carder-bees are sociable insects, making nest above ground in tall open grassland. The nest are quite small, usually with between 60-150 workers. They collect moss and dry grass to make the nest covering.
The group of insects called Bee-flies are not bees at all, but true flies (Diptera) in the family Bombyliidae.
Dark-edged Bee-fly (Bombylius major)
The Dark-edged Bee-fly looks rather like a bumblebee, with a long, straight proboscis that it uses to feed on nectar from spring flowers such as primroses and violets. It is on the wing in the early spring, when it can often be seen in sunny patches. In flight, it is even more like a bee as it produces a high-pitched buzz. This species is common, but the Heath and Mottled Bee-flies, are classified as Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. The female lays eggs near the entrance to the nests of several species of solitary wasps and bees. The larvae enter the nests and parasitise the hosts larvae.