Anthidium manicatum, or the European wool carder bee is not a native bee to the US. It is a leaf cutter bee though, like some of our natives. You would think this bee is a living terror to other bees if you watch it in attack mode. It hovers mid-air, stalks then goes in for the attack. It is very agile flyer too. Let the battle begin…
What I found very interesting is how this bee circled the plants in its territory for hours. Each time I went outside, it was circling the same plants. I was just waiting for any other bee to land on the Salvia so I could photograph the battle. Much easier said than done though. These bees make short work of the invader, making it leave the area.
Males are territorial and very aggressive, attacking any insect that enters its territory that isn’t a wool carder female. It was introduced to New York sometime before 1963 and has since made its way across the country. The male patrols an area around a patch of flowers in search of females.
I watched these bees fight off large Carpenter Bees and Bumblebees, but never cause any real harm. They ram into another bee knocking it off the flower, and keeping it from foraging. Being smaller, they are just an annoyance to other larger native bees. They also do not land very often or at all, patrolling constantly.
In August 2012, I did a funny story called Bee Bombing – Happy Monday Funny, and this is when I learned about this bee. I noticed it hunting out bees in my garden. The confrontation looks like it is a fight to the finish, but that was not the case. You must see this post just for the action photos.
I am not sure if they are mating, but since that is the main reason why the male circles his territory, I am guessing that is what is occurring.
Here are two article that gave these bees a very bad name for its battles with honeybees, saying the wool carder bee, “cuts off their wings, cuts off their antenna, cuts off their heads, cuts off their torsi, and stabs them to death.” Other entomologists say this is just not true and they are pollinators just like other bees.
- Invasive Bees Ravage Native Bees in Vicious Death
- Species of Invasive Bee Leaves Carnage in its Wake
You just might believe these accounts if you watch this bee for a while. They do look vicious, but I never saw it hurt another bee. I saw bees run and hide, but not get hurt. I even saw a honeybee fight today, but the honeybee went on its merry way after the skirmish. No carnage like in the two articles above.
Next, I show the garden and flower groups that these bees are protecting.