Latin name: Eucera longicornis
Notable feature: A large solitary bee with strikingly long antennae in the male of the species
Conservation Status: Least Concern
Where in the UK: Today the majority of its few surviving colonies are coastal. with a perhaps a dozen sites inland, including a few in the English Midlands. A variety of habitats can be exploited including coastal soft-rock cliffs, hay meadow, lightly-grazed pasture, quarries, heathland and woodland rides. It is known from England and Wales but is absent from Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Long-horned Mining Bee (Eucera longicornis) © John Walters
Long-horned Bees (Eucera longicornis) are one of the UK’s largest solitary, native bee species. The males are easily identified by their remarkably long antennae, females lack the extra-long antennae, but are otherwise similar to males in appearance, with a bit of a sturdier, more robust frame.
Long-horned Bees are black with dark orange tufts of fur on their thoraxes and tips of their tails.
Female Long-horned Bees dig burrows in bare or sparsely-vegetated ground, typically on a south-facing slope. Being a solitary bee, each female excavates her own nest, although Long-horned Bees will nest in aggregations and large “sleeping” aggregations of males are found occasionally.
The Long-horned bee is a UK Priority Species. It is also the host for the rare Six-banded Nomad Bee (Nomada sexfasciata).
- Size: About 13mm in length
- Life span: Annual life cycle taking approximately one year to complete. The adult Long-horned Bees flight period is around 3 months. The larvae develop in the soil through the autumn and winter to emerge in mid-May.
- Diet: The diet of the Long-horned Bee is dependent on flowering legumes as pollen sources, notably Meadow Vetchling, Kidney Vetch, everlasting peas, vetches and clovers. A variety of other flowers are visited for nectar and males are known to be attracted to Bee Orchid flowers.
- Reproduction: Long-horned Bees are incredibly rare in the UK and across Europe. Most likely to be spotted on grassland or south-facing cliffs in southern England, where they dig burrows in loose, sandy soil to lay their eggs. Nesting occurs in light soils, especially slopes and banks but nests are not often found. Adults fly mainly from late May to mid- July with a peak that varies according to whatever the main forage plant happens to be.
- When to see: Male Long-horned Bees emerge first in mid-May, females are on the wing a couple of weeks later and can be seen until August. They are now mostly found in a small number of locations on the south coasts of England and Wales with some inland populations near Shropshire.
- Population Trend: The Long-horned Bee is one of Britain’s threatened bees, having disappeared from most of the counties of southern Britain where it was present in the early twentieth century. A second Eucera species, E. nigrescens, occurred in south-east England historically but has not been seen since 1970 and may now be extinct.
- Threats: Loss of flower and species-rich habitat that provides important forage for the adult bees. Habitat fragmentation and pesticide use.
- Fun Fact: Male Long-horned bees are often deceived by Bee orchids (Ophrys species). These flowers not only look like bees in shape, colour and size, they also emit pheromones to trick unsuspecting males into thinking they are a potential mate.
How you can help:
Buglife is working to increase awareness of invertebrates and the Long-horned Bee through specific projects, including partnership project Life on the Edge and 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.
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