Bee hotel

Ancistrocerus nigricornis♀︎

Last update: 28 March 2021


LOCATION: Krimpen aan den IJssel, garden


A female Ancistrocerus nigricornis [1] inspectects the bee hotel.

This is the only overwintering Ancistrocerus species in the Netherlands, and therefore easy to identify early in the year [2]. The other species follow from May.

She uses the bee hotels to built her nests.

Ancistrocerus nigricornis ♀︎
Ancistrocerus nigricornis ♀︎

Taking a small break on a sunny wall…

Ancistrocerus nigricornis ♀︎

Even een rustmomentje op een zonnige muur…

Ancistrocerus nigricornis ♀︎

This female start to nest in one of the blocks.

Ancistrocerus nigricornis ♀︎
Ancistrocerus nigricornis ♀︎
Ancistrocerus nigricornis ♀︎, with prey
Ancistrocerus nigricornis ♀︎, with prey

When she started bringing in caterpillar preys I put myself in a strategic position to photograph and… time and time again I was focussing on the wrong nest entrance. Finally I decided to mark the nest so I could not go wrong and… she went in another hole again. It turned out she was working on two nests in parallel.

Ancistrocerus nigricornis ♀︎, nest holes that were filled in parallel by one female

After some obeservation time it turned out that, I think, she was filling one nest cell with caterpillars, then closed it with mud and switched to the other nest to start filling it with mud to create a cell.

Here the same nest but now closed, two days later.

Ancistrocerus nigricornis ♀︎, sealed nests

Two months later the new generation seemed to have crawled out as the two nests were open.

Ancistrocerus nigricornis

Everytime she went out to start a mud flight she would first fly to a hanging flowerpot with a collecting tray nearby the nesting block (directly behind me) to drink or collect water.

Ancistrocerus nigricornis ♀︎, collecting water before going on a mud run

It became apparent that she only did this before starting a mud run, not before hunting caterpillars. this makes me wonder if she collected the water in order to make the mud more liquid so it could be easier to transport. The mud is transported as a ball between the jaws.

Ancistrocerus nigricornis ♀︎
Ancistrocerus nigricornis ♀︎
Ancistrocerus nigricornis ♀︎
Ancistrocerus nigricornis ♀︎

On one occasion she slipped and fell into the water, and as she seemed struggling not to drown I helped out.

Ancistrocerus nigricornis ♀︎, drying on my hand after she almost drowned while collecting water

In order to make death by drowning a little less likely I put a piece of dead wood into the water which she happily used on the next water collection rounds.

Ancistrocerus nigricornis ♀︎, collecting water before starting a mud run

This occured all at the end of the day and after the final mud flight she made some short flights to elsewhere in the garden and returned to crawl backwards into the nest for the night.

A nesting block further away, another female was inspecting a potential nest location.

Ancistrocerus nigricornis ♀︎
Ancistrocerus nigricornis ♀︎


1 Nederlands Soortenregister

2 Breugel, P. van 2014. Gasten van bijenhotels. – EIS Kenniscentrum Insecten en andere ongewervelden & Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden., pag: 311

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