February spotlight species

The Hairy-footed Flower Bee (Anthophora plumipes) is one of the first solitary bees to appear in the year, with males emerging as early as the end of February. This bumblebee-sized insect can be seen darting around gardens protecting a territory and searching for females. Flower bees are extremely fast flyers but often hover in front of flowers. It is the male that lives up to its name with long hairs on its mid legs. Females are quite different in appearance and are mainly black with bright orange hairs on their rear legs. They nest in soft mortar in old walls and chimneys, excavating cells where they lay eggs which are provisioned with nectar and pollen.

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They are an important pollinator for early spring flowers, particularly Lungwort (Pulmonaria sp.).

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They feed on the nectar using their long tongues. You can encourage them into your garden by planting early nectar-rich flowering plants, such as Red Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum), Flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum), Comfrey (Symphytum sp.), and of course, Lungworts. Hairy-footed Flower Bees are on the wing until June.

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