Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Wool-carder bee in New Zealand


Wool-carder bee research (Update below article)

I am an MSc student at the University of Auckland studying the wool-carder bee (Anthidium manicatum: Megachilidae) and I would be grateful for your help to collect this bee for my research.

The wool-carder bee is new to New Zealand ? it was first discovered in Napier and Nelson in 2006, followed by several records in Auckland in 2007-8. It is native to Europe, northern Africa and Asia and has also established in other countries including the USA, Canada and Brazil.

The wool-carder bee is a robust solitary bee approximately the size of a honeybee. It is highly visible due to its bright yellow colour and the conspicuous territorial behaviour and hovering flight of the male bee. The male bee is larger than the female and is extremely territorial, defending floral resources from other males and flower-visiting insects and mating with females that arrive there. It is particularly aggressive towards other species of bee, with attacks usually causing them to leave the territory. Males have five sharp spines on the abdomen that are used in these attacks which can seriously damage or even kill intruding insects.

The female bee is usually seen foraging but can occasionally be seen ?carding? fibres from plants for use as nest material which is how the species derived its common name. The wool-carder bee visits a variety of different plant species from different families but is predominantly found visiting purple or blue flowers from the mint family (Lamiaceae), such as rosemary and Lamb?s ear (Stachys spp).

To date there have been no studies to evaluate the potential impacts of the wool-carder bee in New Zealand and this is the major objective of my research. Potential impacts may include: competition with native pollinators for floral resources and nest sites, disruption of pollination of native plants and the pollination and further spread of exotic weeds.

I will also be mapping the present and potential distribution of the wool-carder bee in New Zealand and would be very interested in any records from around the country. If anyone is able to collect the bee, I would appreciate being sent any specimens.

If it is possible to collect the bee, please kill by placing in the freezer overnight and send in a non-crush container (eg: a pill bottle) to: 2 Wallingford St, Grey Lynn, Auckland. Please include a sample of the plant it was found on and the collection information – including: your name, date collected, location collected (eg: Birkenhead) and grid reference or specific address of collection site. Many thanks for your assistance.


Hi everyone, thanks for your interest in my research on wool-carder bees and sorry it’s taken so long for me to post anything. I’ve written up a summary of my findings – it’s probably a bit long to post here, so please contact me at jo-soper@ihug.co.nz and I’ll email you out a copy. Though here’s a very brief summary:

The main emphasis of my research was on the potential impacts of wool-carder bees on native biodiversity in New Zealand. Generally, they do not appear likely to have any major direct impacts on our native biodiversity as they mostly visit a small range of exotic plants, plus their attack rate on native bees was found to be relatively low (in comparison to attacks on other bees).

When I started my research in 2009 they were only known from three locations – Nelson, Napier and Auckland. They appear to be continuing to spread and establish around New Zealand and are now found in approximately 13 locations from Whangarei to Christchurch.

If you’re concerned about the impact of wool-carder bees on honey bees and other insects in your garden, it’s probably a good idea to avoid planting too many plants from the Lamiaceae (rosemary, lavender, etc) and Scrophulariaceae (foxglove, Linaria, etc) plant families, as wool-carder bees were mostly found visiting these plants. Remember that honey bees will visit almost any flower!

Thanks so much to everyone who sent me information, photos and specimens – it was a huge help and I’m very grateful. Please get in touch if you’d like more information.

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