European Wool Carder Bee

by Skip Via
skip@westvalleynaturalists.org

Here’s one for the “you learn something new every day” file: a quick look at the European wool carder bee.

If you have any lamb’s ear growing in your garden, now might be a good time to look for these small bees. The European wool carders not only feed on the lamb’s ear flower, they collect the fuzz on the leaves to use in building their winter nests. They do this by landing on the leaf and scraping the fuzz to their abdomens and legs to cart it off for nest building. There were at least a dozen of them on a small patch of lamb’s ear in our garden this afternoon.

Wool carders are distinctly marked with yellow bands that stretch around the abdomen but to not meet at the top of the abdomen. They might be mistaken for yellowjackets if you don’t look closely, but they are true bees, belonging to the same family as leaf cutter bees and mason bees.

They are territorial and aggressive toward other bees. The males do not sting, but they have a spine that they can use defensively. They are not aggressive toward humans.

Head over to the nearest lamb’s ear patch and see what you can find.

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