My insect net is worth its weight in aluminium and nylon mesh. I caught a male gold-tipped leaf cutter bee (Megachile chrysopyga) today.
We've established that I'm ridiculously fond of bees. (I think we've established that I'm ridiculously fond of everything except noise, people who drive as though their brains are leaking out of their nostrils and some elements of the Academy. Oh, and non-native cockroaches.) Bees are big at the moment.
I caught the leaf cutter on the fan flower, where it was minding its own business, relaxing, sipping a little nectar, taking in the mauveness. Next thing it knew, its world turned into white mesh. And then it was dumped into a specimen jar, where it had a hell of a time trying to walk on the slippery plastic.
And that's how I knew it was a male. Of course, I could have handed it the remote control for the television and watched its behaviour but—even easier than that—I looked at its front feet.
Male leaf cutters have the sort of feet that you usually only see in upmarket parts of Hobbiton. Great big gold plates with fringes of silver hair. Males use them to play peek-a-boo with the females during courtship. On encountering a potential mate, a male runs his feet over her eyes and if she likes what she sees, the potential is realised. I am tempted to set up a bee enclosure in the garden so I can watch this foot fetish bee-haviour. But not in any weird, voyeuristic way, you understand. This is all in the name of natural history.