This is one of 4 Blunthorn bees found in the UK, they all have a southerly distribution and are fussy eaters. Most of the Melitta bees feed their offspring on a narrow range of plants within the same genus or family which we term as oligolectic. Some are monolectic which means they are even fussier still and will only collect pollen from a single species such as the Sainfoin Blunthorn Bee which feeds exclusively on Sainfoin.
The Gold Tailed Blunthorn bee feeds exclusively on Campanulas or Bellflowers. It will feed on most Bell flowers from wild Hare Bells in open grasslands to Nettle Leaved Bell Flowers growing along woodland edges and hedgerows. It also likes clustered Bellflowers, Giant Bell flowers, Canterbury Bells and many of the Creeping type Bellflowers which are all widely grown as garden plants. Females collect the pollen from bell flowers and provision the pollen in a cache in burrows dug deep into dry soil.
Male Gold Tailed Bees roosting in a bell flower
The males are often found roosting together in small groups inside the bell flowers and dusk is a good time to look for them. Gently turn up the bell flowers to peek inside with a torch and you may find the sleepy males huddled together inside their roost. These bees are fairly common and widely distributed in the southern half of England and sometimes show up in surprising locations including the garden of the Natural History Museum in London and Central London’s Hyde Park.
Written by horticulturalist, beekeeper and friend of Bee Good, Mark Patterson from ApiCultural