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When we first started discussing the idea of a film about bees and cities, my knowledge of the area extended to the bumblebee and the honey bee. What I quickly came to learn is that the UK is home to a rich diversity of insects that pollinate our plants. As well as the honey bee, there are 26 species of bumblebee, 250 species of solitary bee, 59 species of butterfly and a remarkable 7,000 or so known species of fly.

The images in the gallery below – just a small selection of the UK’s many species – were all produced by Dr Nadine Mitschunas, who worked at University of Reading as a research technician for the Urban Pollinators Project. Photographing bees and other pollinators isn’t easy and requires lots of patience. But you don’t need special equipment or software: Nadine uses a Sony Cyber-shot RX100 compact camera without a macro lens, and normally crops her images with basic photo software such as Microsoft Office Picture Manager.

You can watch Nadine taking photos in Insects in the City, and see many more of her photographs on the Urban Pollinators blog.

  • The domesticated honey bee, Apis mellifera.

    © Nadine Mitschunas

  • As its name suggests, the buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) has a buff-coloured tail. It’s quite a large bee, and often flies low above the ground with a distinctive buzzing sound.

    © Nadine Mitschunas

  • The tree bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum) has a ginger thorax, a black abdomen and a white tail. Widespread on mainland Europe, it only appeared in the UK in 2001 and now ranges from Northumberland to Wales and Cornwall.

    © Nadine Mitschunas

  • The early bumblebee (Bombus pratorum) is a relatively small bumblebee that produces workers quite early in the season. It has a black body with a yellow band on the thorax, a yellow band on the abdomen and an orange tail.

    © Nadine Mitschunas

  • The hairy-footed flower bee (Anthophora plumipes) is a solitary bee and probably one of the fastest flying bees in the UK. They are often seen hovering around Pulmonaria (lungwort) flowers.  This is a female – the males are ginger.

    © Nadine Mitschunas

  • Red mason bees (Osmia bicornis) are the size of a honey bee and have a reddish abdomen. This is a male, with white hair covering its face. Females are larger than the males and have a black face.

    © Nadine Mitschunas

  • Tawny mining bees (Andrena fulva) are quite widespread in England and Wales and like to nest in lawns and short turf. This is a female; the males are smaller, a brownish-grey colour, with a white beard.

    © Nadine Mitschunas

  • Adult ivy bees (Colletes hederae) emerge late in the year, to coincide with the start of the flowering season of ivy, their main food plant. It’s another newcomer to the UK – it was first recorded in Dorset in 2001. 

    © Nadine Mitschunas

  • This isn’t a bee, it’s an impostor. The large bee fly (Bombylius major) is just one of a large family of bee-mimic flies found worldwide. It’s quite a large fly (12–18 mm) with a hairy body, hairy legs that dangle in flight and a long proboscis used to feed on nectar. 

    © Nadine Mitschunas

  • Hoverflies are the most important family of flower visitors among flies. There are over 270 species of hoverflies in the UK; this is a bee-mimic hoverfly (Eristalis tenax) in a tulip.

    © Nadine Mitschunas

  • The marmalade hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus) is a small hoverfly, around 10 mm long. Some years, huge numbers of the flies can migrate from continental Europe to the UK. 

    © Nadine Mitschunas

  • With a body length of 16–22 mm, the hornet hoverfly (Volucella zonaria) is Britain’s largest hoverfly. They’re mainly found in the south-east of England (as well as Asia, north Africa, and southern and central Europe). 

    © Nadine Mitschunas

  • The Small Tortoiseshell butterfly (Aglais urticae) is quite common in gardens and allotments. The caterpillars feed on nettles.

    © Nadine Mitschunas

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