It's that time of the year when the temperatures are rising, the insects are becoming more active and I come up with yet another tortuous bee pun as the title for a blog post. Yesterday I went with my insect-inclined volunteer Jim Barrett to look for solitary bees at Castle Water and we had a pretty successful day between the rain and hail showers. The highlight was spring colletes (Colletes cunicularius), with perhaps 20 or 30 individuals buzzing around bare sand at the northern end of Castle Water. This bee is fairly rare in the UK with traditional populations confined to north-west England and Wales, though in the last few years it has turned up in several counties in the south-east, probably as a result of colonisation from the continent. The females produce a waterproof lining for their nest burrows and are sometimes referred to as cellophane bees for this reason.
Another species I hoped to find yesterday was Clarke's mining bee (Andrena clarkella, above). This is a common spring species in the UK but I always get a thrill of excitement when I see it as it's sort of a harbinger of insect-related good times to come! Unlike the colletes, which like to nest in very loose, sandy soil in full sun, at Rye Harbour I have only ever found Clarke's mining bee nests in the shade in fairly compacted soil. We saw one female yesterday and she spent most of her time irritably fending off the advances of the smaller males which dive-bombed her continuously until she grumpily crawled under an overhanging leaf. True-love bee style!