09 March 2018

The mystery of the "cotton" in the window frame - updated


The arrival of September at our latitude marks the time when windows closed all summer can be opened to admit cool night air.  As I opened the window on our guest room, I was startled to see a wad of cotton-like material tumble from the upper window frame (above, placed on the concrete driveway for imaging).

My initial anxiety was that some sort of insulation was coming loose, but the original location of the material (photo below) ruled out that possibility.


My attention was now drawn to the contents of the mass, which to my initial dismay revealed an insect pupa and a number of living larvae:


After searching several combinations of key words in Google Images, I found one entry that matched my experience.  The brief explanation there was that the mass was the creation of a solitary bee.

Now I did feel bad, because my wife and I are great fans of solitary bees.  But armed with that clue, it didn't take long to track down the answer:
Anthidium manicatum, commonly called the European wool carder bee, is a species of bee in the family Megachilidae, the leaf-cutter bees or mason bees.

They get the name 'carder' from their behaviour of scraping hair from leaves such as lamb's ears (Stachys byzantina)... They scrape the hairs from the leaves and carry them back to their nests bundled beneath their bodies. There it is used as a lining for their nest cavities.  Females tend to build their nests at high locations.
I don't know whether the larvae in the photo are bee-related or parasites.

Reposted from 2016 because this week I was wandering through the "gardening" section of our local Target store and found this:


The shelf tag erroneously said "butterfly house."  The label on the product was slightly less inaccurate with "insect house."  It is in fact a structure designed for solitary bees.  There are online instructions for making these as a DIY project, but this one was nicely made and inexpensive.  I'll hang it from a shepherd's crook near ground level in our garden and hope to see some of the tubes getting filled as the summer progresses.

Here is a photo of an equivalent bee-condo viewed in cross-section:


This one was made by drilling holes in a wood block (presumably with a removable flap so the curious home scientist could inspect the process and the season progressed).

If I remember, I'll try to post followup photos in the summer and autumn.

8 comments:

  1. Wow. That's pretty amazing bee behavior.

    ReplyDelete
  2. hi
    They look like bee larvae;
    http://www.arkive.org/common-carder-bumblebee/bombus-pascuorum/image-A12741.html

    Various ways to make your own nestbox;
    https://www.growwilduk.com/content/how-build-your-own-solitary-bee-house

    and you can buy viewable tubes;
    http://www.wildlifeworld.co.uk/p/bee-tube-paper-liners-pk-15
    I've also seen folks use perspex tubes wrapped in dark paper.
    cheers another phil (not sure if my links are working)

    ReplyDelete
  3. We have beehives and was sitting on the deck by the lavender and noticed a bee-like non honeybee in the flowers. Was absolutely amazed by my discovery and eventually managed to find out it was a wool carder bee, first discovered in NZ in 2006. The males are supposedly aggressive but there was nothing but harmony in the flowers :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. This is a cool post. Thx for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  5. In the last couple of years I have started noticing and appreciating the world of native bees. Have done some reading and observing and bought a small mason bee house for my balcony garden. It's a fascinating exploration and I am just getting my feet wet, but here a few links:

    https://crownbees.com/ - a source for native bee supplies and lots of information

    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28783027-mason-bee-revolution - an introduction to keeping mason bees, written by Crown Bees' owner, Dave Hunter

    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34303588-our-native-bees - interesting look into the world of native bees

    ReplyDelete
  6. In the last couple of years there has been growing interest in Australia in what we call "bug hotels". Various gardening programs have had segments on making your own. A google search with those terms may offer a wider variety of styles and methods for anyone thinking of making their own.

    ReplyDelete

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