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Red bartsia bee on the wing at Marline Valley

It took a bit of patience but managed to find 4 male red bartsia bee Melitta tricincta patrolling patches of red bartsia Odontites vernus within the Big Meadow of Marline Valley Nature Reserve yesterday. This nationally scarce species of bee is a specialist on the pollen of red bartsia and is only found where the pollen resource occurs. Didn't manage to get any photos at Marline so here is a photo from Seaford Head where the species is usually quite numerous. 

The bee is on the wing from now until September. It is very similar to Melitta leporina which is still on the wing and can occur together but M.tricincta has much narrower white hair bands compared to the wider buff hair bands of M.leporina

Andy Phillips


Yellow loosestrife bee and reed yellow-face bee at Filsham Reedbed (EDIT)

The yellow loosestrife bee Macropis europaea is still doing very well at Filsham Reedbed with numerous males patrolling the dense patches of yellow loosestrife throughout the reedbed yesterday, and smaller numbers of females foraging from yellow loosestrife flowers. This bee collects pollen and floral oils mainly from yellow loosestrife and is therefore closely associated with wetland habitats where the pollen resource occurs.

Yellow loosestrife bee & reed yellow-face bee habitat at Filsham Reedbed.

Another wetland and reedbed specialist is the reed yellow-face bee Hylaeus pectoralis which nests within the old abandoned cigar galls made by the gall inducing fly Lipara lucens within the developing flower heads of Phragmites australis.

Lipara lucens cigar gall.

By sweeping a dense patch of Lipara galls and the reed surrounding them I was able to very easily find three female Hylaeus pectoralis. Another 4-5 females were foraging on a nearby patch of creeping thistle which was clearly an important pollen and/or nectar resource for the species at Filsham. 

The species is much larger and more elongate than the very similar common yellow-face bee Hylaeus communis and under the microscope has a very different clypeal microsculpture. This appears to be the first record for Filsham and the RX area.

A number of other bees and wasps were recorded using this method including Hylaeus communis, Hylaeus confusus, Pemphredon lugubris and Crossocerus podagricus. These species were most likely nesting in dead reed stems rather than Lipara galls.

Also recorded was a striking banchine wasp Banchus volutatorius. This is a parasitoid of a number of common noctuid moths such as bright-line brown-eye and cabbage moth.

Andy Phillips

EDIT: Gordon Jarvis informs me that Macropis europaea is also doing well in at least two locations in the Peasmarsh area. The species is worth looking for at any wetland site in the RX area where yellow loosestrife grows from now until early September.



Birds at Pett

After months of avian doldrums [or so it seems to me], the local area has excelled itself over the last few days, and it's been fun catching up with everything. 

A couple of nice waders dropped into the Pannel Vally scrape earlier this week-a summer plumaged Curlew Sandpiper and an adult Pectoral Sandpiper; while this usually elusive drake Ferruginous Duck became very obliging this morning, perching on a rock close to the road. All found by others, and many thanks to them, I managed to find  two Great White Egrets on the scrape early on Monday  morning, two Garganey there yesterday, and a Red Kite over Carters Flood on Monday. [ All much better than driving up to Oare marshes and not seeing  Bonapartes Gull and Lesser Yellowlegs !]


Two-bearded Spider Wasps

Three species of the two-bearded spider wasps, in the genus Dipogon, occur in Britain. All three species have been recorded in the RXwildlife recording area. They are all uniformly black wasps with distinctive banded wings and are mostly seem running about on tree trunks and dead stumps.

The most widespread species (pictured below) is Dipogon variegatus and seems to exclusively hunt the crab spider Xysticus cristatus. This common spider is found mainly at ground level amongst short vegetation but the female pictured had pulled its paralysed prey almost 8 feet up a dead tree stump searching for a suitable nest site. You can see in the photo how the wasp holds the spider by its spinnerets.

The generic name, Dipogon, refers to the two patches of forward pointing bristles on the maxilla of the female mouthparts which are used to pack spider silk and chewed wood into the entrance of its nest cavities. I have seen a female Dipogon subintermedius, which preys on the tube-web spider Segestria senoculata, collecting silk on a tree trunk in Weights Wood.

The nationally rare Dipogon bifasciatus, which also hunts crab spiders, is very restricted with most records from Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire on tree trunks or walls.

A fascinating group of wasps to study and the Royal Entomological Society Handbook on Pompilidae can be downloaded free from their website.

Andy Phillips


Update on Castle Rocks & Galley Hill

Amongst the numerous green-eyed flower bees Anthophora bimaculata at Castle Rocks I managed to find one male four-banded flower bee Anthophora quadrimaculata. This is the third site in the RX area I've recorded this nationally scarce species the other sites being West Marina Gardens (originally found there by Andrew Grace) and Great Dixter. Also present were a small number of Colletes similis on creeping thistle at Castle Rocks.

The bee wolf Philanthus triangulum is still doing well at Galley Hill with 130+ active burrows densely packed along a narrow ridge of sandy grassland at the base of the undercliff on Saturday. The weather was not ideal for aculeates but we did find a few interesting species new for the site including two male pantaloon bee Dasypoda hirtipes and the nationally scarce blunthorn nomad bee Nomada flavopicta. Interestingly the Nomada flavopicta was also found on the cliff-top grassland which has thankfully been left to grow and is becoming quite legume rich with dense patches of tufted vetch, goat's-rue, red clover and bird's-foot trefoil.

Philanthus nectaring on creeping thistle. (Photo: Ian Phillips)

Andy Phillips