Blood Bee Sphecodes ferruginatus new to Cheshire – with help from DNA barcoding



Tanyptera Project DNA Barcoding Training tutored by John Wilson, Curator of Zoology

In June 2019 I found a female blood bee (Sphecodes sp.) foraging in a small clearing in dense deciduous woodland next to Risley Moss, a lowland peat bog (Cheshire (VC59)). Having taken the specimen for microscope identification and recording, it seemed to be either Sphecodes ferruginatus or Sphecodes hyalinatus. Both are usually found in calcareous habitats and only S.hyalinatus had been previously recorded in Cheshire (2 x 1939 records). Having booked onto the DNA barcoding training workshops with the Tanyptera Project at World Museum, which involved bringing one specimen to barcode, my bee seemed like an ideal candidate to put to the test.

On part one of the 2-day workshop, we all successfully went through the process of extracting and amplifying the relevant section of the mitochondrial genome called COI. It started with removing a single leg from my bee and the end product was a tiny volume of liquid suspending millions of copies of COI that was sent through to the University of Sheffield to read off the sequence. The codes (in the form of a c. 300 or 600 string of nucleotide letters) came back in time for the part two of the workshop the following week and it was time get our answers via BOLD (Barcode of Life Data System) matching.

Sphecodes ferruginatus female

Results: my specimen had a 99% match to other barcoded S. ferruginatus across Europe, which was the scarcer of two options from my morphology identification. With this decisive outcome, there is now confirmation that this Nationally Scarce blood bee is present in Cheshire.

As S. ferruginatus is a kleptoparasite usually associated with Lasioglossum fulvicorne, a bee not frequently found outside calcareous habitats itself, finding it in this location possibly suggests it is using a host that it has not definitely been linked with in this country. There are two species of Lasioglossum (L. fratellum and L. rufitarse) which are known to be present in Cheshire and use the type of habitat in which this blood bee was found, and which are recorded by Falk, Else and Edwards, as hosts of S.ferruginatus in Europe, and possible minor hosts of it here. It would be interesting to explore this possible host-parasite relationship here to expand our knowledge of this declining species.