Wool Carder Bee

In January and February 2006 the European wool- carder bee Anthidium manicatum was found to be present at Napier and Nelson, and more recently it has been observed in Auckland, Palmerston North, Blenheim, and Christchurch. Within the foreseeable future it will probably colonise most of the settled areas of the country. The species is rather closely related to the lucerne leafcutting bee and has a similar life cycle, but instead of making cells of pieces of leaf, the females scrape, or card, fibers off the surface of `woolly’ plants such as species of mints in the family Lamiaceae. The fibers are packed into cavities in plant material (and also aluminium window frames), where they look like masses of wool, and cells are formed within the fibers. [caption id="attachment_1097" align="alignright" width="212"]Wool Carder Bee Photo by: Anita Cheetham[/caption]   If you are wanting to provide suitable habitat for the Wool Carder Bee to nest, tunnels of 10mm diameter should be acceptable to female wool-carder bees. These can be incorporated within solitary bee houses (available from www.creativewoodcraft.co.nz) Male wool-carder bees are unlike the males of any other insect in New Zealand, because they hover among and chase other insects away from patches of flowers such as purple linaria, Linaria purpurea. This plant is common in many domestic gardens where the metre + tall stems produce masses of small purple flowers from spring until autumn. Female wool-carder bees love to forage on the flowers for both pollen and nectar, so by chasing other flower-visiting insects away, the males make more food available to the females. The pay-off for the males is that they get the opportunity to mate with the foraging females. In a home garden one can frequently see male bees attacking and driving away even big insects such as queen bumble bees!