Thursday, 23 June 2011

Highgate Common 20th June 2011 part 2

Part 2

I continued to scan the bee beaches for signs of activity and managed to find a Sand Digger Wasp going in and out of a hole. I watched it for a while and realised that it was actually in the process of excavating its nesting hole. Each time it came out of the hole it would have a lot of sand in its mandibles. It would then fly off  a short distance to drop the sand. I even heard it drop a very small stone on the one drop off flight.

Ammophila sp.
Ammophila sp.
There were also some Nomada Sp. of Cuckoo Bee scouting around for other bee's nests to lay their eggs in (hence the name).

Nomada Sp.
Nomada Sp.
I didn't see much more activity so rather than looking at potential nest sites I switched to looking at nectar/pollen sources. The brambles were in flower and were a hive of activity. I couldn't keep up with the amount of bees and wasps coming and going.

I saw a Cuckoo bumblebee which was either Gypsy Cuckoo Bee (Bombus bohemicus) or Southern Cuckoo Bee (Bombus vestalis). Once again, as the name suggests these bees lay their eggs in the nests of other species. Vestalis lays its eggs in terrestris nests, whereas bohemicus takes over the nests of locurum. I think this was probably vestalis as I also took a photo of Bombus terrestris (second photo, also known as Buff-tailed Bumblebee). I don't know if Bombus locurum (White-tailed) occurs on Highgate or not though so I still can't rule out bohemicus. The two species are very similar - see the BWARS site for bohemicus and vestalis.

Bombus bohemicus/vestalis
Bombus terrestris
 I have been told that the smaller insect in the photo below could be a Common Spiny Digger Wasp Oxybelus uniglumis.

Bombus terrestris and Oxybelus uniglumis?
Apparently uniglumis is one of the fastest wasps around. See:

As I have probably mentioned before, bees and wasps are a speciality of Highgate with up to 139 species of aculeate hymenoptera occurring on the site. Aculeate roughly translates to  "with a sting" and so only covers those hymenoptera that posses a sting. As far as I can make out, the classification of hymenoptera is currently under review so this grouping may no longer be considered correct.

It has been well publicised that Honey Bees (Apis mellifera) have been undergoing a rapid decline in numbers recently. I did manage to see some over Highgate though, so at least some hives are still going. Not much is known about their decline, but some attribute it to new types of pesticides called neo-nicotinoids. These have already been banned in many countries as a result.

Apis mellifera
I saw another species of mining bee that I haven't seen before; it has been suggested that it could be Andrena (Simandrena) dorsata. This bee is quite obviously different to the grey and black mining bees that also occur on the site.

Andrena (Simandrena) dorsata?
Andrena (Simandrena) dorsata?
The following are not the best of photos, but they are my only photographic record of a Cerceris sp. of  digger wasp on Highgate so far, probably Cerceris rybyensis. These prey on mining bees like the one above. See: for more information (a fantastic website by the way).

Cerceris rybyensis?
Cerceris rybyensis?
Cerceris rybyensis?
I also managed to grab a photo of a type of carder bee (Bombus (Thoracobombus)) and one of my favourite bees - a Red-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus (Melanobombus) lapidarius).

Bombus (Melanobombus) lapidarius
Bombus (Thoracobombus)
Moving back to butterflies but with a bee type twist. Whilst taking photos of Large Skipper butterflies (Ochlodes sylvanus) I also managed to get a possible crabronid wasp in the same photo. Another two for one in the same day :)

Ochlodes sylvanus and possible crabronidae
Ochlodes sylvanus
Ochlodes sylvanus
The male Large Skipper can be told from the female by the black line in the middle of each forewing (first photo).

I also managed to take a photo of a rather odd looking fly, which was a type of Robber fly (Asilidae).


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