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  • Writer's pictureRachael Bentley

Do bees wee?

Why I think they do.

Source: rosendahl via flickr
Two new bees have paid my garden a visit. But they’re not Honey Bees or Bumblebees…

The hairy-footed flower bee

The first is a rather loud, black bee. This compact bee is a little ninja – small, all black and faster than a bumblebee; making it tricky to catch on camera. It zips off as soon as I get near. It’s actually a Hairy-footed flower bee. The female is all black (except for its reddish hairy hind legs). She’s our only native all black bee, so is easy to spot. The male is a ginger ninja with hairy ankles (hence the name). You’ll find both Hairy-footed flower bees from late February until early June.

Hairy-footed flower bees are solitary bees and don’t live in a colony with a queen or workers. Instead, they prefer to build their own nest chamber or tunnel, in which to lay their eggs. They make their homes in soft mortar or compacted clay soils – something there’s a plentiful supply of here in Leicestershire. Solitary bees are in decline but if you plant a lungwort (Pulmanaria), they’ll love you for it. They can’t resist lungwort and even when disturbed, they’ll hover around you, sizing you up, before going back to their beloved Pulmonaria’s tube-like flowers, which their huge tongues are perfect for.

To pee or not to pee?

My second bee discovery was a bee doing its business. Bees are insects and have to conserve as much water as possible to prevent themselves drying out, so they don’t urinate. They secrete uric acid and ammonia waste from their malpighian tubes, which is often white in colour and contains very small amounts of water. It's presumed that bees pass mostly dry waste. And yet…

I think I saw a bee wee.

The leaf-cutter bee

I saw a strange green dot, floating about four feet above the ground. I thought my eyes were doing something odd, until I realised that the hovering green spot, was in fact a disc of bay leaf. A leaf-cutter bee was behind this piece of flying foliage and was en-route to its nest.

A female bee uses pieces of leaf to seal their eggs into individual cells, forming what looks like a cigar, in hollow stems or soil. I was in this bee's path and it bobbed mid-air for a few moments, before suddenly squirting out some bright yellow liquid and doing a quick arc around me, to make a 'bee-line' for the garden fence, then on and out of sight.

It could’ve been urinating in panic, or lightening the load (as it was so yellow it could’ve been pollen) it may be a question for an expert. But I like to think I saw a bee wee and the picture at the top of this post is pretty convincing too.


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