Hi I was out in the garden and have noticed a few of these bees popping in and out of flowers. They caught my attention as they don't seem to have the normal yellow and black stripes which I'm use to. But as I don't know much about bees I thought I'd ask the experts. I look forward to finding out whp my mystery bee visitor is.
I'm no bee expert I'm afraid, but here's my suggestion. Going by what I can see my inclination is that it's one of the leaf-cutter bee species (Megachile species), of which there are a few in the UK. The underside of the abdomen is coated with orange-coloured hairs that hold the collected pollen, and the edge of this surface seems to show in your photo, contrasting aginst the dark dorsal side. They are one of the many solitary bee species which don't live in colonies. Females see to their own individual nests, a small cavity of some sort in which eggs are laid and cells for developing larvae are constructed. In the case of leaf-cutters, pieces of leaf are used for building and sealing up the nest. I've watched them doing this in the garden in the past - sadly none appear to be using our bee hotel this year, but I think I spotted one briefly today among the flowers.
Thanks Chris for such a brilliant answer. I think you might be spot on. I'm currently growing some beetroot in the garden and keep finding some of the leaves have circular holes in them. I kept looking to see if I could see the culprit or if it was a disease but nothing left any tell tale signs. I now wonder if it might have been the bees having a nibble.
It's fascinating to watch if you get the opportunity. They hold onto the piece being cut off, rather like the comedy classic of sawing off a tree branch while sitting on the wrong part, except they're smart enough to start flapping the wings just when the final bites are made.