Insects; Ivy Digger Bees

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Insects; Ivy Digger Bees

The holes in this photo were made by a “new species,” of solitary bees who nest in colonies.  Ivy Digger Bees have probably been around for centuries, but they were first “discovered” in Bulgaria in the 1980s, and then in Dorset, England, in 2001, and there are learned charts on the internet mapping all the sightings.   They look very much like honey bees, but yellower.

Ivy Digger Bees are unusual, in that they spend most of the year underground as eggs or larvae, emerging as adults only in September or October, just as the ivy is about to bloom. The males emerge first, and then hover over the ground, waiting for the females to come out. Once the male has mated, he dies; the female gathers nectar and pollen, digs several holes about 2 inches deep in a sandy, south-facing bank, lays several eggs in each hole, and then she dies. In September or October the next year, the next generation appears and repeats the process.

Claire Browne first noticed hundreds of holes that looked like ants’ nests appearing on the hillside at the far end of Moore Meadow in September 2015.   She watched again at the right time this year ...  and ... one sunny afternoon there were thousands of bees, flying just above the soil, hunting for mates, and lots of holes where they had emerged.  A week or so later, Claire spotted the females on the ivy flowers.  

Claire is sure these are the same bees as on the lawn of the Bearsted Village library and in a nearby garden. Ivy digger bees are not dangerous and they won't sting you.  Very soon the females will be making their nests again. Watch our Nature Notes section for more about these special bees.

Digger Bees in action

Walkers reported a nice colony in Moore Meadow on 1st October 2017.  As you can read above, the bees are important pollinators and not aggressive.

Close up photo by Michael Buckley
Claire Browne
digger bees

Digger bees are out again!   Mostly males so far, ALL OVER the white sand area.    Well worth making the trip in the next few weeks to see this unusual sight.  Best time to go is a sunny afternoon.    And no, they don't sting.   My daft dog lay down amongst them.

Beautiful photo from Michael!

And no, they don't sting.   My daft dog lay down amongst them!