Long-horned bee (Eucera longicornis)

Male (all image credits to Steven Falk)

Species distribution map from https://nbnatlas.org
Red: records 2000-present. Yellow: pre-2000 records.*

Long-horned bees get their name from the males’ unmistakable and unusually long antennae. Sadly, this species has declined significantly across Britain and is now absent from many of the southern counties it used to be found in. As a result, it is considered a UK priority species.

Female

Females

Females lack the extra-long antennae, but are otherwise similar to males, with a bit of a sturdier, more robust frame. They can be confused with some Flower bees (Anthophora species), although they can be separated by examining the wing structure (See Falk & Lewington Field Guide for details).

Male

Males

Males are instantly recognisable by their long antennae. Their thoraxes are covered with light brown hair, and their abdomens are also sparsely covered with light brown-haired. Their hair can fade to a silvery white when exposed to the sun.

Habitat, nesting and flower preferences

These bees are known to occur in a variety of habitats, including coastal grasslands, soft cliff faces, heathland edges, woodland rides and clearings and sometimes brownfield areas. They will feed on a wide variety of flowers including bramble, bugle and comfrey, although they seem to have a special preference for members of the pea family like clovers, vetches, bird’s foot trefoil and everlasting peas.

Flight season & Distribution

Males emerge first in mid-May, females are on the wing a couple of weeks later and can be seen until August. They are now mostly found in a small number of locations on the south coasts of England and Wales with some inland populations near Shropshire.

Interesting fact

Male Long-horned bees are often deceived by Bee orchids (Ophrys species). These flowers not only look like bees in shape, colour and size, they also emit pheromones to trick unsuspecting males into thinking they are a potential mate.

Further information:

Bees Wasps and Ants Recording Society (BWARS) species account

BWARS recording scheme

Steven Falk’s Melecta albifrons Flickr album

* This map displays the data currently publically available on the NBN Atlas website at http://www.nbnatlas.org. Data have been contributed by a range of organisations: see here for the full list. Please note that records from the national recording body (BWARS) are not yet available on the NBN so this map may appear incomplete.

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