Who’s that bee?


Until I started on this voyage of discovery one bee looked very much like another… am I right? However, as I’ve started paying more attention I’ve started to notice the subtle differences between the species. I love being able to identify different organisms – mainly because I’m a bit of a geeky show-off. I’d love to get a better handle on bee ID so I thought I’d use my photos and try and identify some of the species I’ve photographed. You can come along for the ride… wild! The first bee I’m going to try and identify is featured below on a photograph I took at Ness Gardens a couple of weeks ago. Remembering where you saw an animal is probably important when you come to identifying it. A trap a lot of people fall into when identifying animals is thinking they’ve found a mega rarity. Whilst it’s not impossible that you have, it’s much more likely you’ve found a reasonably common species, so start your ID efforts there. bee id 1 This individual is enjoying its mega meal of Heather (Calluna vulgaris). I’m about 90% sure this one is a honeybee; to be specific,  the Western Honeybee (Apis mellifera). There’s only one honeybee species in the UK, or so I was told at uni anyway! I can see it’s definitely not a bumblebee as it lacks the thick hair and was smaller.  It has a slim, wasp like shape, but is darker and somewhat plumper with some golden stripes across its abdomen.  What do you think? Am I right? beeid2 This one is a definite bumblebee – its cute and furry for a start (how scientific, right?). According to the Bumblebee Conservation Society, the best way to ID a bumble is to look at the stripes on their thorax and abdomen. The thorax is the section that joins the bee’s head and abdomen together. BCT have a great guide you can download for use when you’re out which will help you identify common species. I’ve downloaded this to help me, so am looking within common species only to identify the bee I captured in this picture. This one could be either Buff Tailed Bumblebee, a Garden Bumblebee or a Heath Bumblebee. I’m going to plump for Garden Bumblebee (Bombus locurum) as the pictures I’ve seen of this bee have the same bright yellow stripes and slightly silvery tail. I may be completely wrong, and if you know more please let me know! I like to learn! The BCT allows you to submit your bee photographs to their online survey, Bee Watch, and they will confirm the ID for you! As well as the Bumblebee Conservation’s webpage, Buzz About Bees also has great information about biology and identifying bees. Do you try and ID bees? Got any tips for me? Next time it’s sunny why not try and do some bee ID of your own? Many people think that there’s just two types of bee species – honeybees and bumblebees – but there are loads more out there (including solitary bees and lots of different types of bumblebee!), all with varying needs. Understanding this diversity and being able to identify the types of bees in your garden will only help you cater better for them!


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