Bumblebee Conservation Trust member, Ken East from Edinburgh, has spotted a Hairy-footed flower bee (Anthophora plumipes) in his garden – the first sighting of this species in Scotland since 2013, and probably the most northerly record of this bee to date. Ken found the bee in his greenhouse before safely releasing her outside again, but not before taking a few photographs of his new visitor, of course.
Hairy-footed flower bees are one of the first solitary bee species to emerge, they are spring specialists and can often be seen visiting flowers like lungworts, primroses and dead-nettles. You could be forgiven for mistaking them for bumblebees as they are equipped with a similar fury coat to help them operate in cool spring temperatures. The females (as seen in Ken’s photos above) look like little black bumblebees with golden coloured hairs on their hind legs, while the males, which can often be seen stalking females as they visit flowers, are much yellower in appearance. One notable difference between Hairy-footed flower bees and bumblebees is the style of their flight – Hairy-footers have quite a fast, darting flight, while bumblebees have a slower, bumbling motion.
This year we have received lots of calls, emails and social media posts about Hairy-footed flower bees, which are quite a common species in the south of England and Wales, and seem to be becoming more abundant further north too.