Woolston Eyes Nature Reserve

An S.S.S.I. Managed by Woolston Eyes Conservation Group

The Order Hymenoptera: - comprises the Bees, Wasps, Ants, Sawflies, Ichneumons and Calcids insects.

The Bees and Wasps can be described as falling within the general groups:

  • Mining Bees - solitary, usually nesters in the ground
  • Solitary Bees - solitary nesters in aerial locations, borings in timber, hollow plant stems
  • Social Bees - social nesters, such as honey bees and bumblebees
  • Cuckoo Bees - lay eggs in nests of solitary or social bees who tend the young as their own
  • Solitary Wasps - solitary ground nesting species
  • Solitary Wasps - solitary aerial nesting species
  • Social Wasps - social nesters including hornets.
  • Spider Hunting Wasps - specialise in taking spiders as prey
  • Cuckoo Wasps - lay their eggs in nests of other solitary wasp species
  • Spider Hunting Wasps - specialise in taking spiders as prey
  • Parasitoid Wasps - very small, parasitising beetles, butterfly/moth larvae and homopteran bugs

Recorded Species of Bees & Wasps at Woolston Eyes rev31Dec2023


B01 Clarkes's Mining Bee (Andrena clarkella)

Identification: A generally black looking bee with dense deep reddish-orange hairs across the back of the thorax and sparse lighter hairs sprouting from the abdomen segments. The hind legs are yellowish-orange but this can often be obscured by pollen collected on the hind legs. Typically females are 13-16mm in length, males a mm or two smaller. Sometimes nests in large compact aggregations formed on the edges of well-trodden paths, but groups of 2–3 large burrows are more typical.

  • Status: Generally distributed and locally common in England and Wales, scarce and sporadic in Scotland. One of the first solitary bees seen in early spring with a flight period generally mid-February through May. Often seen feeding on Willow in early spring.

B02 Tawny Mining Bee (Andrena fulva)

Identification: Females are unusual being smaller than the males, 8-10mm compared to 10-12mm respectively. They are covered in tawny red-brown hair on their backs, thorax and abdomen, and black on the underside. Males die after mating in spring so are less often seen. They are similar to the females but less brightly coloured. Nests in the ground, often producing a small mound of excavated earth around the opening and are solitary, each female excavating its own nest but often forms communal aggregations.

  • Status: One of the first bee’s to be found on the wing in spring, active period from March tNo hrough May. It is widespread but not abundant. Woolston image available

B03 Early Mining Bee (Andrena haemorrhoa)

Identification: This is a small bee with the female around 8-11mm and is reddish-brown on top of the thorax with a black abdomen except for the rear end which is the same reddish-brown as the thorax. Males are much smaller than the females and their colouration tends to be lighter, even bordering on greyish-white.Nests alone or in aggregations in suitable habitat such as the edges of pathways, gardens, short grass, and road edges etc.

  • Status: A mining bee, solitary, common and widespread in Britain. Found on short grassland, heathland and in open scrub. Active period March through June.

B04 Buffish Mining Bee (Andrena nigroaenea)

Identification: A solitary mining bee, a small bee which appears larger than the 14mm actual size, due to the dense hairs and plump body. Females have black-haired faces, a dense brown-pile on the thorax and a dense buff pile on abdomen segments 1-4. The hind tibiae are dark but have bright orange pollen brushes. Males resemble small, slim females and have the face brown and black-haired. It can be confused with A. tibialis in the field. Nesting can be singly or in quite large aggregations, often mixed with other Andrena species.

  • Status: This is one of our commonest and most widespread mining bees in England and Wales, scarce in Scotland and occurs in a wide range of habitats including urban locations. Adults fly from March to July but peak in April and May.

B05 Chocolate Mining Bee (Andrena scotica)

Identification: Nesting in sandy soil especially under pathways, stones and tiles in a wide variety of habitats. Although sharing nesting sites, even common entrances and exits, this is a solitary bee, each female responsible for her own egg chamber. This is a dark bee which lacks any clear diagnostic features but, resembles a small version of honey bee at first sight. Females have almost hairless dark brown abdomens and ochreous-brown hair on the thorax. The head has some ochreous-brown hair but is generally black. Females are 12-14mm in length, males slightly smaller at 10-13mm.

  • Status: A widespread and common ‘mining bee’ which is seen from early spring,

John Blundell No.1 bed 04/08/2021

B06 Western Honey-bee (Apis mellifera)

Identification: The Honey Bee is quite variable in colour but are basically black, some shade of brown mixed with yellow shades. Male bees are around 15mm and generally have tawny-brown and black bands on the abdomen, tawny-brown thorax and a large head with large eyes. Worker bees at 10mm, have much smaller thorax, heads and small eyes. Queens are much larger at 19mm and similarly coloured.

  • Status: The common Honey Bee. It is a domesticated species, although occasional colonies may persist in the wild for a few years in hollow trees, etc. Healthy hives can number 40 t0 80,000 bees.

B07 Bohemian Cuckoo Bee (Bombus bohemicus)

Identification: Parasitic on social Bombus species bees the eggs are laid in the bumble bee nest after usurping the host queen and the host workers rear the cuckoo bee eggs and larva, which take no part in running the colony after maturing. A fairly small bumble bee, confusion with Bombus vestalis possible in the field, the queen is circa 18mm in length, males and workers a few mm smaller. They are generally black with pale-yellow and white marking. The queen has a single pale-yellow thorax collar and a white tail, which shows two small pale-yellow patches either side of the centre. Males are similar but also have a lesser, sometimes sparse, pale-yellow band of hairs on the first segment of the abdomen. Workers are as the queens but smaller.

  • Status: A common solitary Cuckoo-bee species, particularly in the north and west of Britain, scarcer in southern regions and active between April through to August.

David Waterhouse No3 Bed on 13/07/2014 feeding on Knapweed

B08 Red-tailed Bumble-bee (Bombus lapidaries)

Identification: The queen and worker bees are mainly black with a red tail. The male has distinct dense yellow facial hair and a broad yellow collar on the thorax, there is also a faint yellow hair line at the base of the thorax. The queen’s hind leg hairs on the pollen sacs are all black, they are reddish in the rarer Red-shanked Carder bee. Male Red-tailed Bumblebees may have reddish pollen sac hairs. The nests are located in a wide variety of habitats any dark place and often under stones. As with all the family species only young fertilised queens survives. hibernating through winter emerging in spring to start up her own colony.

  • Status: A widespread and common social bumble bee of gardens and hedgerows. The active period is from April to November.

B09 White-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lucorum)

Identification: Just a mm or so smaller than the Buff-tailed Bumblebee which it can be confused with. Basically black and yellow coloured, the queens and workers single yellow thorax and abdomen bands are lemon-yellow not golden-yellow as in Buff-tailed Bumblebee. The queen also has a white tail, particularly the tip which separates it from Buff-tailed. Male bees have yellow hairs on their head, at the abdomen end of the thorax and a second fine yellowish line after the main abdomen band. They are ground nesters in old vole nests, etc. Only the young fertilised queen survives the winter, having hibernated in a protected place, she emerges in the spring and starts her own colony.

  • Status: Another widespread and common large British bumblebee, the active period is from March through to September.

John Blundell No1 Bed 13/08/2021

B10 Common Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum)

Identification: A medium sized social bumblebee, queens reach, 15-18mm, workers, 9-15mm and males, 12-14mm. Workers and males are similar to the queen, the thorax is covered in dense ginger hairs and abdomen in slightly lighter hairs mixed with some black hairs on the side of the abdomen. There are only four brown bumblebees in the UK and the positive identification of these black hair patches is the diagnostic for this species. Without this identification only close examination will separate the species. They nest underground in old mammal burrows or in grass tussocks just above ground. The colony reaches up to 150 individuals and exists for up to 25 weeks.

  • Status:: Widespread and common throughout Britain, active April to October.

B11 Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum)

Identification: It has unique colour banded hairs within the UK Bumblebee family with a tawny/reddish-brown thorax, a black or dark charcoal abdomen and a white tail which is very noticeable. Queens and drones all have the same colour pattern. This is one of the first Bumblebees to be seen in the spring. It nests high up in holes in trees, though buildings and other structures in this habitat are colonised. A particular nest site for the species are bird nest boxes especially when located on trees. Hole entrances are reduced to suit by waxy deposit of yellowish bee faeces which can be a useful indication of colonisation. As with other Bumblebee species, the colony die out after four or five months. Queens survive until the following year when they establish new colonies.

  • Status: A relative recent addition to the UK species list first found in Wiltshire in 2001 it has quickly colonised southern and central England and is extending northward but not yet recorded in Scotland. The natural habitat is on the woodland edge and clearings.

B13 Early Bumblebee (Bombus pratorum)

Identification: This is a relatively small social bumblebee with queens at 15-17mm, workers at 10-14mm and males at 11-15mm. It is a general dark colour with a yellow thorax collar behind the head, a central yellow abdominal band and orange tail hairs. Males have the most and brightest yellow colouration, workers are similar to queens but the yellow abdominal hairs can vary significantly even being absent. This is one of the most variable of all bumblebees, The thorax collar is usually present but may be reduced to just a few hairs. The central yellow abdomen band often shows a break in the middle and sometimes is reduced to just a few hairs or in some totally absent. The tail hairs are usually present but can vary between pink, orange and brown. It nests in a wide variety of places, underground in old mouse or vole holes, in tree cavities and old nest boxes and is rather small with fewer than 100 workers.

  • Status: Active from March to July and is widespread and common in Britain, scarcer in northern Scotland.

John Blundell No.1 bed 28/07/2021

B14 Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris)

Identification: Despite the name suggestion, the queen of this species is the only one which exhibits the buff-coloured tail. The workers all have a white tail, although a subtle thin buff line can be seen separating the white tail from the rest of the abdomen. Adult males are slightly more buffy in the whiteness of the tail than the worker bees but nowhere close to the queen’s buff colour. All Buff-tailed Bumblebees have black faces, a golden-yellow thorax band after the head and a golden-yellow abdomen band. This is the largest of the bumblebees, queens being 20mm or more in length with the workers and drones 12 - 17mm. They nest in the ground in natural holes or abandoned mouse holes, etc. Colonies average from one to a few hundred individuals.

  • Status: A common bee throughout Britain, active from March to October. Young queens are the only bees to survive and hibernate through the winter.

B15 Vestal Cuckoo Bee (Bombus vestalis)

Identification: This is a large bumblebee with the queen around 21 mm in length and a wingspan of c. 37 mm. The male is considerably smaller, 15-19 mm. The bumblebee is predominantly black, with an orange-yellow collar behind the head. The abdomen is black with a thin border of yellow hairs at the third segment and mostly white hairs thereafter. The males are similar to the females, but smaller and with longer antennae. This is a cuckoo bee species which lay their eggs in other Bombus species nests, B. terrestris, is a favoured host. The host queen is usurped and the host workers are left to raise the B. vestalis young. Very similar in appearance to another cuckoo bumblebee, B. bohemicus, but is really only distinguishable by close examination; either the length of the antennal segments or dissection and comparison of the genitalia. In B. vestalis, the fifth antennal segment will be the same length as the third and fourth together.

  • Status: It is widespread throughout England but localised and tends to be coastal in Wales and has only recently been recorded in southern Scotland. Active April to September.

B16 Bloomed Furrow Bee (Lasioglossum albipes)

Identification: A solitary, ground nesting bee, closely resembles L. calceatum (Common Furrow Bee) in both sexes. L. albipes females are slghtly smaller. The males lack the white hair separating the abdomen sections of L. calceatum.

  • **Status:* Widespread and locally common.

B17 Common Furrow Bee (Lasioglossum calceatum)

Identification: This is a small, 8-10mm in length, solitary, ground nesting bee and is generally has dark to black bodies with varying amounts of red on the abdomen. Females can be indistinguishable from other ‘Lasioglossum species’ in the field. The male is distinguished from its principle confusion species, ‘Lasioglossum albipes, by the conspicuous white hair bands separating the segments of the abdomen. Legs can be dark or zebra striped white and black to pale-yellow and black. Nests in small burrow in short grassland. Although solitary, suitable habitat can attract aggregations of a few hundred bees.

  • Status: A candidate for the commonest ‘lassioglossum species’ found in most of Britain and has a long active period from April through to October.

B18 Willoughby's Leafcutter Bee (Megachile willughbiella)

Identification: A large solitary ‘leafcutter’ bee, around 12 -18mm in length. The female of this species is very difficult to separate from its close cousins. They have a mild to bright orange underside to the abdomen - ‘pollen brush’. The males have white flattened front legs. Individual cellular nests are formed from leaves - near circular leaf pieces are cut and used to line the cavity for receiving the egg - in sheltered sunny positions in crevices in wood and soil. Each cell is provided with a pollen and nectar bed which the developing larva feeds on before overwintering and emerging in the spring.

  • Status: Common in Britain, more so in the southern regions, becoming more localised moving north. Active period from June through August.

B19 Early Nomad Bee (Normada leucopthalma)

Identification: This is a large solitary cuckoo bee, around 8-12mm in length. A dark to black bee with a wasp mimic yellow and black banded abdomen with a red band at the front and orange hairs on the thorax. The antenna are dark red with orange tips. The female has reddish markings on the head and thorax, the male has yellow-brown markings.

  • Status: Widespread in Britain but localised and more prevalent in the south. It is in flight early in the year, March to June, and is a parasite of Andrena species, esp. clarkella.

B20 Marsham's Nomad Bee (Normada marshamella)

Identification: A small solitary cuckoo bee, the female is 10-13mm and male 8-13mm in length. Coloured to mimic a wasp with a black head and thorax and a yellow and black banded abdomen and reddish-brown legs, wings and antenna. The female has two yellow spots on the thorax.

  • Status: Active from March to September it is parasitic on Andrena species of bees and is fairly common in Britain, less so in the far north.

B21 Blue Mason Bee (Osmia caerulescens)

Identification: A solitary bee species, 8-10mm in length, creating nesting cells in hollow structures using mud. The female is generally dark-blackish with a distinct metallic blue lustre to the abdomen - hence the name. Males are smaller and generally bronze coloured with a metallic sheen to the abdomen and covered with yellowish hairs. Young survive winter in the nest cavity emerging in the spring, males first.

  • Status: Active April to September, widespread in England and Wales but more common in the southern regions.

B22 Red Mason Bee (Osmia rufa)

Family: Megachilidae

Identification: A small solitary bee species, 6-11mm, though gatherings can occur at suitable nest sites. Their whole body is covered in gingery hairs. Males are smaller than females and have a small tuft of whit hair on their face. The female’s bigger face is black. They are called “mason” bees as they collect mud as a building material, which they mould to form nest cells in hollow cavities. They do not actually excavate the nest cavities but use pre-existing cavities in soft mortar, hollow plant stems and beetle borings in dead wood. The young survive the winter in the nest cells emerging in spring, males first.

  • Status: Widespread and common in Britain but scarcer in Scotland. Active from March to June,

W0 Hymenoptera - Wasps

Hymenoptera: - Bees, Wasps, Ants, Sawflies, Ichneumons and Calcids

  • WASPS - Familes Crabronidae, Sphecidae and Vespidae

They can be described as falling within the six general groups:

  • Solitary Wasps - solitary ground nesting species.

  • Solitary Wasps - solitary aerial nesting species.

  • Social Wasps - social nesters including hornets.

  • Spider Hunting Wasps - specialise in taking spiders as prey.

  • Cuckoo Wasps - lay their eggs in nests of other solitary wasp species.

  • Parasitoid Wasps - very small, parasitising beetles, butterfly/moth larvae and homopteran bugs.

W01 Spider Wasp (Anoplius nigerrimus)

Identification: A solitary spider-hunting wasp, females around 9-11mm in length and males smaller at 6-10mm. nesting in a variety of situations including under stones, in dry plant stems, in deserted burrows of other aculeates and in snail shells. This is an overall black wasp, long-legged and restless, spending much of their time running over ground rather than flying. Their long anntenae constantly in motion exploring grassland, holes and crevices for spiders.

  • Status: Widespread and fairly common in Britain. Active from May to September and found in a fairly wide range of habitats,

W02 Slender-bodied Digger Wasp (Crabro cribrarius)

Identification: A solitary wasp, 11-18mm in length in females with males slightly smaller at 9-17mm. Both species have a yellow collar behind the head which is usually split, a small yellow shield at the base of the thorax and yellow bands across the abdomen, the second and third being visibly incomplete across the upper-side. The lower leg segments, tibia and tarsus are also yellow. The yellow colouration is bolder in the male than female. Nest burrows are excavated in sandy soils, though heavier soils are used.

  • Status: Widespread in Britain though can be localised, active from June to September and found in open woodland and chalk grasslands.

W03 A Digger Wasp (Crossocerus megacephalus)

Identification: A solitary digger wasp, completely black in general appearance. Nests in wood, often rotten wood and utilises the borings of other insects, beetles etc.

  • Status: Widespread over England and Wales, more common in southern regions. Active from May to September and appears to prey on Diptera species exclusively.

W04: Four Spot Digger wasp (Crossocerus quadrimaculatus)

Identification: A solitary wasp, females 7-11mm in length, males slightly smaller, 6-9mm in length. Predominately black in appearance but has yellow stripes on the upper-side of the black abdomen, although melanistic variants occur to confuse. These stripes do not form bands around the abdomen but look like four yellow spots when viewed from directly above. The tibia, second segment of the legs from the body, are also coloured yellow. The nest is in sandy soils, a single burrow containing one egg each. Aggregations occur at the more suitable sites.

  • Status: This species inhabit warm sandy areas and is widespread in southern Britain with a range extending into the north-west and north-east England. Active flight June to mid-October.

W05 Tree Wasp (Dolichovespula sylvestris)

Identification: A social wasp is A medium sized wasp, circa 22mm in length, has typical black and yellow banded abdomen and is usually identified by its full yellow face and a single black spot between the black eyes. There are two yellow spots on the lower back of the thorax. Contrary to its name the nests are not always located in trees but all tend to be under cover. Ariel nests are found in bird boxes, hollow trees, wall cavities, under porches and even etc. and even underground. Due to the short life cycle of this species maximum colony size tend to remain modest, a few hundred individuals at best, and the paper nests are quite small, 10-15mm diameter.

  • Status: Widely distributed and common in Britain. Different brood generations can be seen from May through to September.

W06 A Digger Wasp (Ectemnius cavifrons)

Identification: A large, 11-16mm, solitary wasp. The abdomen is typically a wasp yellow and black banded wasp, has a notable big black head and very large black eyes, which projects a very different characteristic from a common wasp. Nests usually in decaying wood excavating small burrows or making use of existing borings of other insects. Preys on hoverflies and other Diptera species.

  • Status: Not uncommon but predominately a southern species in Britain, spreading northwards with an active period from June to October.

W07 A Spider-Hunting Wasp (Evagetes crassicornis)

Identification: A spider hunting wasp which is a brood parasite to species in the nest of other species ln the same family, eating the hosts egg and laying its own on the paralysed spider before resealing the cell. A completely black wasp with two-thirds of the abdomen coloured red and stout black antenna.

  • Status: Widespread but rarely numerous. Active between May and September, with a preference for sandy habitats.

W08 Leaden Spider Wasp (Pompilius cinereus)

Identification: A solitary spider hunting wasp species, black with grey abdomen bands and grey to black legs. Hunts ground spiders as the food source for its larva. The egg is laid on the spider buried in a sand burrow.

  • Status: Widespread in Britain, tends to inhabit coastal or near coastal sandy regions and is scarcer in Scotland. No Woolston image available

David Bowman No.3 bed 05/09/2023 Hornet taking a Honey Bee

W09 Hornet (Vespa crabro)

Identification: A social wasp and larger relative to our Common Wasp except it has a brown thorax and brown and yellow stripes instead of black and yellow. It is considerably larger than the Common Wasp at 28mm in length

  • Status: Common and widespread in southern and central Britain and expanding north. Active from May to November.

W10 German Wasp (Vespula germanica)

Identification: A social wasp, very similar in general appearance as the Common Wasp but is slightly larger and has the black abdomen spots completely separated from the associated black abdomen bands. The black anchor face mark of Common Wasp is replaced by three black dots, spaced as the points of a triangle. Fusing of the black spots and marks can create ‘anchor’ style marks to confuse with V. vulgaris. nests in concealed cavities and underground often in large colonies, numbering thousands of individuals.

  • Status: Common and widespread in Britain, can become aggressive if foraging is interrupted.

W11 Common Wasp (Vespula vulgaris)

Identification A social wasp with bright yellow and black banded abdomen, about 17mm in length, queens are larger, with a very distinctive waist between thorax and abdomen is unmistakeable. The black abdomen bands have a central tooth to them with a small black dot either side, sometimes separated from the band as in V. germanica. Variable yellow makings appear on the thorax and head but a diagnostic upside down black ‘anchor’ mark on its face identifies it from all other wasps. The nest is usually underground but can be in cavities in walls, trees and buildings. All of the colony perish except the young fertilised queens who hibernate through winter.

  • Status: This is a widespread and common species in Britain.

John Blundell No.1 bed 13/04/2022

B12 Garden Bumblebee (Bombus hortorum)

Identification: Basic black body with two full golden yellow bands, one on the front of the thorax behind the head and a second at the junction of the thorax and abdomen. The tail is white. The face is noticeably longer than wide. Can be confused with the Cuckoo Bumblebee (which has no pollen baskets, the Heath Bumblebee which has a rounder face and the Ruderal Bumblebee.

  • Status: Very common across the UK across a wide range of habitats