Hairy-footed Flower Bee
Latin name: Anthophora plumipes
Notable feature: Named for the tufts of hair on their hind legs. Pluma is the Latin for feather, and pes means foot.
Conservation Status: Not Evaluated
Where in the UK: Can be found in Southern and central England and Wales, recently recorded from southern Scotland.
Hairy-footed Flower Bee (Anthophora plumipes) © Natural England-Allan Drewitt (Flickr CC)
The Hairy-footed Flower Bee is a distinctive, bumblebee-sized, native spring flying solitary bee. Males are gingery in colour with a yellow moustache and characteristic “hairy feet”, from which they get their name. Females have a black fuzzy body with orange hind legs and could easily be mistaken for a bumblebee.
The Hairy-footed flower bee has a rapid, darting flight and can often be seen zipping between flowers with its long tongue extended.
Males can be seen hovering in front of flowers, particularly when pursuing females; this species has an unusual mating dance where the male mounts the female and waves his front legs in the air, fanning her with his hairy feet.
Females will use their mandibles to excavate nests in vertical faces of old cob walls, soft mortar, and cliffs. Occasionally they will nest in the ground, preferring bare compacted clay soils. Although solitary, female bees may nest close to each other forming aggregations.
- Size: About 1.5cm in length
- Life span: Annual life cycle taking approximately one year to complete.
- Diet: The Hairy-footed Flower Bee feeds on feeds solely on pollen and nectar having a preference for species such as Lungwort, Comfrey, Dead Neetle, Green Alkanet & Primrose.
- Reproduction: Female Hairy-footed Flower Bees each construct a nest with a series of brood cells. She provisions each cell with pollen and nectar, lays an egg on this food supply and seals the brood cell. The egg will later hatch and the larvae will feast on the supply left by their mother. The larvae will moult as it grows, then spin a cocoon to pupate. The adult bee will later emerge from the cocoon and break out of the sealed nest.
- When to see: Hairy-footed Flower Bee males emerge in late February/early march. The females emerge roughly two weeks later and can be seen to late may/early June.
- Population Trend: Unknown. Widespread and common in the areas they are found.
- Threats: Loss of flower and species-rich habitat that provides important forage for the adult bees. Habitat fragmentation and pesticide use.
- Fun Fact: Hairy-footed Flower bees are known for their aerial acrobatics; the males can hover behind the females by beating their wings around 400 times per second!
How you can help:
Buglife is working to increase awareness of invertebrates and the Hairy-footed Flower Bee through specific projects, including B-Lines, but we need your help!
Buglife B-Lines are an imaginative and beautiful solution to the problem of the loss of flowers and pollinators. B-Lines are a series of ‘insect pathways’ running through our countryside and towns, along which we are restoring and creating a series of wildflower-rich habitat stepping stones. Linking existing wildlife areas together, creating a network, like a railway, that will weave across the UK landscape. More information about B-Lines and how you can help pollinators can be found on our B-Lines & Pollinator Projects pages.
Make a cob-brick bee hotel and plant the Hairy-footed Flower Bees’ favourite wildflowers that will bloom in early Spring.
Join a recording scheme and log your finds – send any records/sightings to BWARS or download the iRecord app and get recording!
Do remember that we rely on donations to continue our work. If you have searched, found and learnt about our incredible invertebrates on our website, please do consider Making a Donation, Becoming a Member or maybe even making a purchase in our shop. For more ideas on how to support our work find out how to Get Involved. Thank you 🕷