Please help: Wool-carder bee research

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    Please help: Wool-carder bee research

    Jo-Anne Soper

    Photo: Eve Manning

    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.

    Photo: Eve Manning

    Male wool-carder bee

    Photo: Paul Westrich

    Female wool-carder bee collecting pubescence from plants for use as nest

    material – I will try and get links to photos – these look a little like a wasp

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    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 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.



    Has Jo published anything yet? Or is there preliminary results of the research that she could share with us? I’m sure lots of us would be interested.



    Jo emailed me:

    I finished my research in September so it would be fine to take the notice
    re: wool-carders bees off the forum. Thanks very much for posting it there
    – I have had heaps of people contact me with information after reading it.

    Best wishes,



    I think this is the bee I saw this morning in my front yard The sun went behind clouds before I could get a photo

    I live near Unitech Mt Albert



    Did I say one? I?ve caught three in the last half hour. It’s an invasion!



    I killed one yesterday and there’s another one to take its place today, so we have them in Torbay (which is next to Albany).



    Debbie, I havent done much rearch on the bee, but I’m sure Jo would love to answer your questions. Shes a lovely lady. If you get a chance to collect the insect then write the date, location and your name on a piece of paper and put it with the bee inside a vial. Hard evidence is invaluable. As a young boy in Borneo (1982-4) I collected single butterfly species but kept all the collection data with the specimens. I wasent a conservationest, just a young man loving nature and obeying what I read in books. Today that collection is being used to protect the Borneo rainforests in Brunei. All because I labled hard physical evidence and left behind a collection for the state. I never knew what I did till these last few years when a new highway was planned to plough through Bruneis’ interior rainforests



    About a year ago now this bee was found as far north as Albany in North Shore City, Auckland. This is the most northern extent that Jo knows of for this bee. I noticed it while working as a plant buyer for Kings Garden Center Silverdale, but only as a visual sighting. It was at at home (Albany) where I collected specimens for Jo….a bit of a story too….the bees used to fly into my shadehouses!!!!. They had a curious high pitched sound too when in distress inside my butterfly net. Especilly distressing as they went from there into a freezer. The bees looked to me like a cross between a wasp and a honey bee. Very striking when you see one. They are also excclent at hovering infront of flowers. They also took an intrest in my Rosemary when in Albany. However I havent seen any since. This last year I have been to Hamilton where I think they are reasonably established, but I dident see any. Now am hear in Tauranga. No idea about their prsence hear.



    I’ve seen one of these around my new wildflower patch which I planted to help honey bees. At first I thought it was a wasp so I was going to kill it, but then thought I would check online to see if it was good or bad. Found it was one of these wool carder BEES so figured it was good, but now I read that it chases off or kills honey bees and other insects. Will it kill the bad wasps as well as the good bees? To kill or not to kill? I’m thinking if I want honey bees then I should exterminate it.

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