Almost two years ago I wrote a blog post about the ‘Silent Summer’ – the looming loss of bees and other insects from the British countryside. In that post I mentioned Nomada signata, one of a fascinating group of about thirty small, wasp-like species of bee that are kleptoparasites on mining bees. Signata is a nationally rare species that kleptoparasites the Tawny Mining Bee Andrena fulva, and I’d photographed a female (without having a clue to its identification – that came via Stuart Roberts, chair of the excellent BWARS) in my garden in late-April.
Female Nomada signata, Great Chalfield, April 2010
I’ve been looking for Nomad bees again this spring, hoping of course to find another signata. There were masses of mining bees around early in the month (which is when I posted an image I’d taken of the Nationally Notable Dotted Bee-fly Bombylius discolor) and things looked quite hopeful until the change in the weather of last week. It’s horrible outside and if there are any bees around there’s no way I’m going to get soaked looking for them…
Anyway, I did manage to find a Nomada here at Great Chalfield last week, just before the rain closed in for the rest of the month – though I doubt that it’s identifiable to species based on the photos below. Not only was it in woodland edge under grey skies, meaning it was difficult to get a decent depth-of-field, the bee is covered in pollen from a dandelion which – given how tricky these things can be – is probably covering up some vital identification feature (or coloured it yellow). I think it’s probably Nomada flava which is widespread roughly south of a line from the Mersey to the Humber, and virtually indistinguishable from the even more widely distributed (and dramatically named) N. panzeri. I suspect this will have to be listed as Nomada sp., but I could be completely wrong of course and I’d welcome any comments either way.
All images copyright Charlie Moores/Talking Naturally