The Wool Carder Bee (Anthidium manicatum) is an iconic summer garden bee. It’s a solitary bee and will sometimes nest in a garden bee house.
If you grow the plant commonly known as lamb’s ears (Stachys byzantina) spend some time watching the bees that visit. The male wool carder bee is very territorial. He knows that the female wool carder feeds on the flowers of this plant, but that she also shaves the hairs from it’s soft leaves and stems and uses this fluff to line her nest, often carding and weaving it into little pockets. That’s how this bee gets its common name. It combs and cards plant wool and if there’s one plant that has the most divine fluffy leaves it’s lamb’s ears. As a child I adored this plant, often plucking the odd leaf and rubbing its softness across my face. I found it amazing that a plant could be so soft and fluffy.
So the male wool carder bee stakes out clumps of this plant. He chases off any other visiting insects waiting for his bride. He can be quite aggressive and isn’t fazed by larger bumblebees. He also has spikes at the base of his abdomen, which he can use to defend his patch.
If you want to see this bee then spend a little time watching flowering clumps of this plant. The males feed on the nectar lying in wait for the females.
The wool carder bee is quite dark in appearance, with yellow spots down the sides of the abdomen, and yellow markings on the face and on the legs.
The female bees collect pollen to provision their eggs on their underside,
collecting the grains between the rearfacing hairs underneath her. Like
the leaf-cutter bee, this makes them excellent pollinators as they move
pollen from flower to flower.