Friday 26 April 2013

The Hairy-footed flower bee (Anthophora plumipes): a love affair with Pulmonaria

Hairy-footed flower bees like Pulmonaria flowers
If you live in the South of the UK and have a patch of Pulmonaria (lungwort) flowering in your garden at the moment it is well worth to look out for the Hairy-footed flower bee (Anthophora plumipes) as the bees find Pulmonaria flowers irresistible.

 Hairy-footed flower bees are the size of a small bumblebee and both sexes look quite different from each other. The males, which normally emerge earlier than the females in late February or early March, have gingery hair with a darker tail and hairy feet whereas the females are black with yellowish hair on the hind legs. 

The bees are incredible fast flyers (they are the fastest bees we have seen so far) and especially the males are often just dashing around and you may only see something brown whizzing past you. The females are easier to see as they often spend some time collecting pollen and nectar from Pulmonaria flowers. They will also visit other flowers such as Flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum) or Comfrey (Symphytum sp.). Hairy-footed flower bees are often seen hovering in front of flowers; they sometimes even hover in the air in front of you to look what you are up to. You can see the bees flying around from late February (if it is warm enough) until mid June.

The males have gingery hair and hairy feet

The Hairy-footed flower bee female will build nests in soft mortar in walls or more rarely in the ground and can sometimes form big aggregations in favoured locations with a good supply of flowering spring plants, especially Pulmonaria.

Female bees are black with brown hairs on the hind legs

The bees are quite widespread in the South and some central areas of the UK and can be found in parks, gardens, on road verges and in other habitats with a good supply of spring flowers. 

Even the male bees have to stop dashing around sometimes

If you find Hairy-footed flower bees in your garden or local park you can submit your sighting to BWARS:

A Hairy-footed flower bee male in a crocus flower
A female bee visiting some violet flowers
This female bee is attracted to comfrey flowers
Flowering currants are good plants for pollinators in spring


  1. Very interesting entry thanks.

  2. The first female of the season seen in my garden today.

  3. Just looking them up as found one in our house today!

  4. Yep, just clocked a female one on our pulmonaria this afternoon, struggling against a rather stiff breeze.

  5. I'm finding dozens of these dead in my house, I don't know where they are coming from! Help!

    1. chimney? may be nesting the mortar

  6. We moved here recently and have filled the whole garden with many flowering plants, including Pulmonaria. A long, high garden wall runs the length of one side of our property. We have solitary masonry bees at one end of the wall and Hairy Footed flower bees at the other end. Not bothering us at all (as yet)!

  7. Think these little guys have been nesting in our chimney flue for the last 2 years as we've had lots of them suddenly appearing in the living room (Windows closed) since late Feb/early March. They keep coming until around June then seem to disappear for the rest of the year. As long as they don't bother us or the pooch they can stay put. Bee lover, Warwickshire

  8. Just seen one for first time. Female on early flowering Rosemary. Came many times during day. Very fast, darting flight almost like a hoverfly

  9. Lovely bees, been with us in Cheshire for years. They nest in our old Victorian mortar and love pulmonaria and comfrey.