a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France


Confusion in the bee hotel

Bee hotel

I keep my bee hotels in full sun so that this gives me maximum light for photographing the antics of the visitors and the warm site appears to be appreciated by the bees.  This has worked well until this summer when the high temperatures and hot sun have kept me from watching as much as I would have liked to.

Bee hotel close

Look what has happened when I have not been watching!  I have never heard of a bee building a nest out of straw and I could not imagine any small insect flying in with so much straw.  My husband suggested it might be a very small bird, he was joking, but it did look more like a bird building a nest than a bee.


Then there was the heaps of pollen under the hotel.  It looked as if something might be turfing out the contents of a previously built nest.

Black wasp on bee hotel

As today was cooler (under 30 degrees Centigrade, just) I had to see if I could see what was happening.  I was rewarded by seeing, not a bee but an elegant wasp-shaped “thing” (I.D. anyone?).

I could see by looking at it that bad times loomed ahead.  Perhaps impending destruction of my bees by this strange creature.  However, I wanted to make sure that this was the straw importer and I wanted to see for myself how she could bring the straw.

Black wasp with caterpillar

My patience was rewarded and I saw her bring back some straw but it was not until I looked at the photographs that I realised she was holding something else in addition.

Black wasp with caterpillar 2

Not only had she managed to bring back the straw but she was also carrying a hapless caterpillar.

Black wasp with caterpillar 3

At this point my reasoning did a U-turn.  Sorry caterpillar, and all that, but if you are going to be the food for the wasp larvae it means that my bees are safe.  I don’t mind if your eggs are tucked up inside your strange straw bed, as long as your larvae are not eating my bee larvae.

Heriades in Osmia hole

So that just leaves the pollen mystery.  But what is this cute little bee doing inside a cane that was sealed by an Osmia this spring and on target to hatch out next spring?  It looks like a Heriades to me and these little bees seem to make free and easy with other bees provisions (see “Je t’accuse“) but I may be mistaken.

And I was mistaken about the sombre, black wasp that I thought was a parasite.  Instead she looks like a gardeners friend.  She can have as many caterpillars from the garden as she likes (sorry, butterflies, everybody has different priorities) and is very welcome in the bee hotels.

So before you think about swatting anything in the garden, pause and consider – you may be mistaken.

Saturday 25 July 2015, I’d just like to add a postscript for anyone who is interested.  The wasp has been identified by Susan Walter of Days on the Claise (http://daysontheclaise.blogspot.fr/ ) as an Isodontia mexicana (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isodontia_mexicana).