Gregarious and social

Lasioglossum malachurum

On the West side of Monmouth, along the edge of Sergeant’s Wood and Sergeant’s Grove Seargant's Grove 2there are some large nesting aggregations of a small mining bee Lasioglossum malachurum, sometimes called the Sharp-collared Furrow Bee on account of its square ‘shoulders’ which can just be seen with a hand-lens. (‘Furrow’ refers to a groove in the last abdominal segment of the female, characteristic of all Lasioglossum and Halictus bees.)┬áIt is a common bee in the Monmouth area, though at only 7 millimetres long it doesn’t fit everone’s idea malachurum 3of ‘bee’ and is easily missed.

Besides being gregarious – having many nests in one place – this bee is truly social though not on the scale of honeybees and bumblebees. In each nest, the founding queen and her daughters co-operate to forage and raise the next generation. It has been much studied by evolutionary biogists because of what it can tell us about behavioural origins of social living. There is a good article on it in Wikipedia.Field 12 (2)

 

The largest aggregation contains about 1500 nest holes, which I counted using a metre square, though there may be up to twice this number, since many are hidden by vegetation or beyond the margins of the measured area.

Field 12 (4)The nest entrance holes are close together – up to 60 per square metre – and made in hard clay with thin vegetation, often on the pathway.

An uncomfortable half-hour squatting in the malachurum 4hot sun produced nothing better than this photo of a worker (probably) about to go back into its hole at the sight of a digital camera.

 

 

 

The Field Guide to the Bees of Britain and Ireland, says that Lasioglossum malachurum ‘is not recorded from . . . Wales’.

About Roger Ruston

In one of my ealiest memories I am knee-high, collecting bees from lavender in a garden on the South Downs. When I grew up I got a master's in zoology at Bristol and studied insects under Prof. Howard Hinton FRS (for those who know, that gives away my age). After several retirements from several lives I have created a wildlife garden in Monmouth, Wales, giving a space to insects, especially bees. In four years I have found 49 species of bee there and nearly twice that number in the surrounding countryside. I am a member of BWARS (Bees, Wasps & Ants Recording Society). My ambition is to assist local conservation projects by identifying and mapping the local bees. I think it is best to know what species we share our spaces with before they are threatened by the many human activities that can destroy bees. Ignorance is the greatest enemy.
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