We just collected an intriguing pair of bees in a well-tended back garden in Reading: the cleptoparasitic (thieving) Melecta albifrons (Cuckoo Bee) and its host Anthophora plumipes (the Hairy-Footed Flower Bee). The female Cuckoo bee will lay her egg in a Flower Bee burrow, next to the pollen gathered by the Flower bee. Then her larva will hatch and consume the food that was intended for the Flower Bee’s own offspring. The bees were collected in quick succession on a Lunaria annua and a Symphytum officinalis flower. They’re most common in the South-East of England, so keep a look out for the species if you have a Flower Bee colony in your garden!
On the left side you see the Flower Bee with collected pollen at its legs, on the right is the Cuckoo Bee.