Saturday, September 15, 2012

European Wool Carder Bee (Anthidium manicatum)

European Wool Carder Bee is now here in Oregon

Let me introduce you to the European Wool Carder Bee AKA Anthidium manicatum.  This little guy (that is a male in the photo) gets it's name from gathering hairs from leaves, particularly Lamb's Ear (Stachys byzantina) that it uses to line it's nest with.  Related to the Mason Bee, this leaf cutter bee seems to have found a good home here in my Portland Oregon garden and elsewhere in the United States and Canada.  Other than being rather protective of its foraging area and the leaf cutting habit that helps it build it's nest, it seems it is not a huge pest so I can relax.  (I have been a little on edge about new insects lately after the battle I've been fighting with Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs the past couple of years.)

Our world is much smaller place these days and insects are finding it easier than ever to stow away to other parts of the world.  Hey, migration happens!  My rule of thumb is to not get too excited when I spot an unidentified insect species and avoid become an insectaphobe.  Here is what I recommend you do should you have an insect show up that seems out of place in your garden:

TAKE CLEAR PHOTOS - You may need these to send to the experts or to refer to yourself.  It is nearly impossible to ID something from a fuzzy photograph so the sharper the picture the better

NOTE APPROXIMATE SIZE, COLOR AND MARKINGS - be sure to include exoskeleton and what the wings (if present), legs, head, abdomen and thorax look like with lengths if you can get them.  Also mouthparts etc., as this information helps when the identifying gets tough.   But again...that sharp photo is priceless for someone else looking at what you have found.  (I use the macro setting on my ancient Sony Mavica camera to get the shots I do.)

- Aggressive or gentle behavior, plants it is feeding on, movement patterns (slow or flitting), did you find it hatching from eggs (get a photo of those please) or did it just emerge from the ground or a whole in a tree...all of this helps.  In the case of my bee here it's aggressiveness was a dead giveaway to helping ID it.  It not only let the honey bees know those plants were its foraging territory but let me know as well.  That comes in handy to know when children are around so they can be taught to respect these bees and avoid possible stings.

- I use Google Images,, Wikipedia and my local county extension office and find them to be some of the best resources in identifying insects I know.  I rarely ask friends online and when I do am always searching myself in the background.

ASK THE EXPERTS - Reporting unusual insects in the garden is always a must before coming to a final conclusion on what the insect is, especially if you believe it is a trouble maker.  There are millions of insects in the world and some are really difficult to discern between but have very different lifestyles in the garden.  Less than one percent of them do real damage by the way.  However, an insect that is native to a different region can be devastating when it migrates to a new region where it is not in danger of being eaten by something or weather does not keep down the numbers.  Though it is an invasive species, I don't think this Wool Carder Bee is one of those that will cause real damage and am glad I now know who it is and that I don't have to be worried about it too much.

So there you have it.  Have fun looking for insects and happy gardening!

P.S.  I noticed while editing this post that there is another bug on the leaf this bee is sitting on.  Can you see it?  Do you know what it is?  (I already know but am interested to see if you can find out too.)

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