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Bees, Wasps and Hoverflies
This group of insects are some of the best known due to a number of factors including being active during the day as well as their invaluable help as pollinators and predators of pest species.
There are 6 species of bumblebee in the islands; Great Yellow bumblebee (Bombus distinguendus), Moss Carder bumblebee (Bombus muscorum), White-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lucorum), Garden Bumblebee (Bombus hortorum) and the Heath Bumblebee (Bombus jonellus). There is also the Gypsy Cuckoo Bumblebee (Bombus bohemicus) which is not classed as a social bumblebee like the others listed here and parasitises White-tailed bumblebees. The cuckoo bumblebees enter the nest of its host, then oust or kill the queen and effectively taking over the nest. They lay their own eggs in the nest and the workers from the host (in this case White-tailed Bumblebees) rear the young of the cuckoo bees. The adults leave the nest where they will mate and then the females hibernate over winter.
There are also two species of solitary mining bee that are found in the Outer Hebrides; Colletes floralis and Colletes succinctus. These small but striking bees nest in the ground and are very similar in appearance. They are called solitary bees although they nest in colonies which at first appears to be contradictory although the females nest in holes close together rather than in a communal hive or nest.
Honey Bees are scarce in the Outer Hebrides and very few people keep them. These two above were photographed in Lews Castle Grounds, Stornoway; perhaps one of the few places with enough shelter and readily available nectar to support a number of hives.
There have been at least 56 species of hoverfly identified from the Outer Hebrides. Some of these are difficult to differentiate due to there being very similar species and may require microscopic examination or a specimen to secure their identity. Others are much more straight forward as in the Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus). If you do get the bug (please forgive the pun) for identifying hoverflies, macro photography can be a very useful tool although you'll probably need to take a series of shots from different angles to cover; leg colour, face pattern, abdomen and wing pattern.