It’s July and the striking black and yellow coloured Wool carder bees are emerging. The males are between 10-16mm whereas the females are smaller: 10-13mm. Below a male resting on a leaf.
They live in Europe, Northern Africa and Asia and are often seen in urban areas nowadays.
In my garden, the males patrol patches of Black horehound – Ballota nigra and Spiny restharrow – Ononis spinosa. If a female bee arrives, the males often tries to copulate with the female. I have seen this in my garden but the copulation lasts less than a minute so not long enough for me to grab the camera and take a picture.
Above: photograph of the female
The males are quite territorial, defending their territory against other males and even other bees such as bumblebees which are often attacked. The tip of the male’s abdomen has some spines with which he can harm other insects.
They seem to prefer plants that belong to the Mint family (labiates such as Black horehound, Hedge woundwort, and Lamb’s ear, the latter is particularly useful as the female uses the hairs of this plant to line her nest but they also use Verbascum for that purpose). They are also frequently seen on plants of the Pea family (Spiny restharrow, Bird’s-foot Trefoil), mostly for pollen.
I have not seen one of their nests yet but it is said that the females nest in cavities such as beetle holes. This species is another one which has become more common in urban areas.