Species of the week- 20

I’ve been doing lots of fieldwork recently, and have seen loads of cool stuff, so its been hard to choose a species to write about! I’ve been getting started on learning my bees this year, using Stephen Falks brilliant bee guide. So this weeks species is a bee, Gooden’s Nomad Bee: Nomada goodeniana.

 

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Nomada goodeniana male

 

Many people are surprised by the diversity of bees in Britain, we have nearly 275 species! One of these species is the Honeybee (Apis mellifera), roughly 25 are Bumblebees (Bombus spp.), and all of the other species are solitary bees. Of those solitary bees, 34 are in the genus Nomada, which are all roughly wasp-like in appearance, and cleptoparasitic on Andrena mining bee species.

Nomada goodeniana is cleptoparasitic on the common Andrena species A.nigroaenea and A.nitida, as well as the much scarcer A.thoracica. The female Nomada finds the nest hole of one of its host species, and sneaks in whilst the adult is absent. They lay one egg in the wall of a nest cavity, containing a grub of the host with its food store. The Nomada larva then eats the host Andrena larva, and all of its food store!

Recognising a Nomad bee isn’t too tricky, but identifying it to species can be. First you need to figure out if its male or female. Males are slightly slimmer, with slightly longer 13 segmented antennae. Females are stockier with shorter, 12 segmented antennae. Males are then identified by having no red or brown marks on the abdomen, 0 or 2 yellow spots on the propodeum (never 1 large spot), an unbroken yellow band on tergite 2 and mostly orange hind tibiae. All of these features can be seen in the photos above and below. Females are recognised similarly by having only yellow and black abdomens, 2 yellow dots on the propodeum and a complete yellow band on tergite 2.

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Nomada goodeniana is frequent throughout southern Britain, becoming scarcer and more localised further North (a pattern seen in many bee species due to their thermophilic tendencies). Here’s its distribution map (may not be complete due to the NBN atlas not having all datasets yet):

https://species.nbnatlas.org/species/NHMSYS0000876427

I look forward to finding more bees, especially Nomad bees, soon!

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Species of the week- 19

Yet another two week gap since my last blog. I don’t like leaving it so long, but exams had to come first. I’m now home for a month, and although working, will try to blog more often! The species I’ve chosen this week is extra special to me, as it was the 3000th species (of anything and everything) that I’d seen in the UK. I found it for the first time last sunday. The weevil Neliocarus nebulosus.

 

Neliocarus
Neliocarus nebulosus

 

With its portly figure and plodding movements, I find it to be a rather friendly looking little weevil. Its identification isn’t ever so easy, but the features include: 3-4mm long, keeled elytral base, eyes asymmetrically curved to give a swept-back appearance and pronotum widest at or behind the middle.

This weevil is typically found on low growing plants, often near the roots,¬†where it presumably feeds on the roots and/or foliage (I can’t find any specific information on its diet!). It is most frequent on light and sandy soils in fairly open habitats, such as heathland, or coastal grassland. I found my individual by beating Gorse bushes on a Cornish clifftop.

Neliocarus nebulosus is quite widespread in England and Wales, becoming rarer further North. It is almost absent from Scotland. It seems odd that a seemingly generalist beetle is quite rarely recorded. Though widespread, records are thin on the ground. The excellent new NBN atlas (replacing the NBN gateway) shows this well: https://species.nbnatlas.org/species/NHMSYS0020152778#overview

Another excellent feature of this new site is the records shown in each Vice-county. As you can see, West Cornwall is the best place to find the species! https://species.nbnatlas.org/species/NHMSYS0020152778#records

Though it may not look like the most exciting species, I’m very fond of it, and it marks a pan-species milestone!