Ivy, Sea-aster, Heather a 'Succinctus hat-trick'.......
A search for Colletes halophilus Sea Aster Bee today (21st) with Jason Nichols began at Morston, after a brief stop along the approach road to Marina Park, Burgh Castle to check on the Colletes hederae Ivy Bees.
Morston is a known site for what is bee species, with a very limited global distribution, but the nearby coastline in Norfolk and Suffolk is one such area where this species exists and breeds in suitable nesting sites.
Whilst this Colletes species is associated with Sea Aster Aster tripolium there are two variations of this plant, one with purple flower-rays and a ray-less form var. discoideus. This means that being unaware of this and therefore looking for ‘purple’ flowers as opposed to yellow ones can hinder the search for C. halophilus.
However, a spot of research, prior to today’s trip meant that this oversight would not occur, but always best to look at any flowers, as there are always exceptions to the rule and today was a case in point, as the first C. halophilus were found just west of the car park on yellow thistle flowers and during the visit none were found on any variant of sea aster flowers!
The walk along the edge of the saltmarsh continued westwards towards Stiffkey, finding C. halophilus at various points on yellow-flowered plants, along with a Furrow Bee species, still to be identified.
Eventually, a piece of substrate, at the edge of a channel found two colonies of nesting halophilus, either side of the ‘saltmarsh peninsular’, with a great deal of activity involving several hundred bees with females entering the nest holes laden with pollen and males ‘in attendance’. A photographic session ensued!
A visit to Weybourne Cliffs followed and here Colletes succinctus Heather Colletes were still present, nesting in the cliff face and at suitable sites on the cliff top. A ‘hat-trick’ of what are known as the ‘succinctus group’!
Also here a female Halictus tumulorum Bronze Furrow Bee was found (pers com ID Nick Owens), an 11-spot Ladybird, Gorse Shieldbug and a small Spider yet to be identified.
Morston Harbour Blakeney Point
Colletes halophilus nesting colony
11-spot Ladybird Spider sp. Bronze Furrow Bee Colletes succinctus