Wool Carder Bee – Defending the Hens and Chicks

This bee has a lot of nicknames around here – all of them unprintable. Really territorial, aggressive little thing. Especially the males. But this is a neat shot of a male in flight. Look closely at that neat eye on him.

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Hens & Chicks Doing Their Part

First, check out the little photobomber there below (and to the right of) the bee. Always so much going on. Lots of varieties of hens and chicks (sempervivum) in our gardens – from all over the world. They throw up bloomstalks once a year – and it’s usually the wool carder bees (and sometimes a particular leafcutter) that get excited about them – so seldom the bumbles. This variety of semp’s flowers are a little different and the bumbles seem drawn to it. Great profile shot of this one.

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Semp Blossoms with a Bumble

As far as semp blossoms go, this is a strange one. It doesn’t open nearly as far and the bees spend very little time on any one blossom. It’s also such a light color compared – so it always looks a little blown out in the photos. Its texture is different, too…thicker and less delicate. But it seems to be throwing pollen now and the bumbles enjoy it. Guess that’s another difference, too, in that the bumbles spend little to no time on the other types of semps.

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Wool Carder Bee in the Hens and Chicks

This shot is probably a lot less about the bee and more about the beauty and complexity of the hens & chicks blossoming. Apparently, aficionados aren’t all that fond of the blooms – they tend to like the rosettes better and often see the blooms as an annoyance. But…the leafcutters especially like them – notsomuch the honeybees, but there are pollinators on them when they do bloom. And I’m a big fan. Really like the shapes they make.

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Wool Carder Bee In-flight over the Hens and Chicks

This one’s from late July of 2020. Really busy shot, but lots of neat colors. And I really like the hens & chicks blossoms. And when they fade, their stalks and dried-up flowers leave really great shapes in the gardens.

The honeybees don’t seem too interested in the hens & chicks, but the wool carder bees and the leafcutters do battle over their pollen and nectar. Rough to get good shots of them, though. They’re really fast and they don’t stay in once place for very long.

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Bee 083 – Another Rude One

Here’s another variety of the rude, crash-into-everyone, mate-with-everyone bees. This particular variety seems exceptionally fond of the Semp blossoms. They’re small, thick, and fast. And they don’t stay on the flowers for very long. Invasive and rude. But I kinda like them anyway. Hard not to admire their hubris and bullet-proof sense that they have about them. I’m clearly mapping human qualities onto them, but…it’s what we do.

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From the Family Megachilidae

Megachilidae – unsure of genus/species – on a Sempervivum bud

I’m not much of a taxonomist yet. Just a guy with some cameras. But I suspect I’ll get better with that over time. This one is some kind of Megachilidae for sure – unsure of genus/species. I’m pretty certain this little one is female (check out her left rear-most leg and notice the corbiculae – the pollen basket. Males don’t have those.). She’s on a Sempervivum (commonly known as Hens and Chicks) bud. Yep, the semps bloom. And they can be beautiful.

This particular bee is really territorial – downright ornery. I cannot count the number of times I’ve been lining up a shot of one bee or another on some blossom and one of these guys has bombed, full speed, into my intended subject. And not to be indelicate (cover the kids’ eyes, please), but the males of this species are, um, pretty adept at non-consensual birds-and-bees stuff – both on an intra- and inter-species level.

Kevin Vaughn has written a very worthwhile book on Hens and Chicks. It’s really accessible and is a good, instructive read if you’re interested in these amazing plants: Sempervivum: A Gardener’s Perspective of the Not-So-Humble Hens-and-Chicks (That’s an amazon link, but any bookseller can order it for you.) They’re really neat little plants and over time you’ll see a number of them in my photographs here.

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