Wool Carder Bee

lost wool carder bee-mail
Dear Bugfolks–
Greetings from St. Louis, Missouri. Way back on June 23d, I sent you guys an e-mail about wool carder bees, but I’m guessing it either never got to you or got lost in WTB’s server upheaval shortly thereafter. So. I’ma try again. In May, I noticed a bee I had never seen before acting very territorial–chasing other bees and hoverflies away from all the patches of lamb’s ear on my front slope. Searching Missouri bees and North American bees online turned up no matches. “Hm,” thinks I, “Perhaps an exotic?” A website from the UK had pics of my guy listed as Anthidium manicatum, commonly known as the wool carder bee after the habit of the female of gathering fibers from furry-leaved plants to line its nest. Searching the scientific name turned up information regarding its introduction into the U.S., including a study by a team from Ohio State published in 2002 documenting expansion of its range westward; at that time, it wasn’t believed to have made it to St. Louis yet. I tried to get in touch with the study’s authors, and eventually contacted Dr. Randy Mitchell who said, “Yeah, that sure looks like A. manicatum,” and asked me to send specimens, but by that time, the lamb’s ear was done blooming and my little A. manicatum (assuming that ID is correct) community defunct for the season. Sigh. The timing on this identification endeavor has been entirely off. Anyway, I didn’t see A. manicatum or any of its Anthidium relatives on your site (WTB was the first site I checked in IDing my mystery bee), so I’m attaching four pictures that you’re welcome to use however you like. The first and second are male and female wool carders at rest. The third is tragically blurry, I know, of the male in flight, showing (if you look closely at the back end of the abdomen) the three spikes he uses to savage other bees when they don’t take a gentle hint and leave (I saw him do this! Wow!). The fourth is of a lamb’s ear leaf which the female has been “carding”: she has little scissor-like bits on her mouth with which she clips off the fibers; I watched her do this and then gather up in a ball and carry it back to her nest (in this case, a cavity in a large rock on my front slope, which is now neatly packed full of “wool” and, one assumes, eggs and food). Sorry this is so danged long; watching the activities of this bee community all spring was fascinating, and so I tend to blather on about it. I really appreciate your site and have been addicted to it ever since I used it to ID a Megarhyssa atrata which came to visit me in my kitchen; you set my mind at rest that I wasn’t halucinating GIANT SIX INCH WASPS!
patty d. kocot

male Wool Carder Bee female Wool Carder Bee

Dear Patty,
We are so sorry to have lost your original email and are thrilled you have resent it. We are happy to have received your photos. Your letter and all the research is absolutely amazing. Thank you for sharing this wonderful information with our readership.

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