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