Insects

Mining Bees

DSC_6453wasp

There are a number of bees that can look a little like wasps at first glance. This is an Andrena Bee, which is commonly called a Mining Bee. They mine or burrow into the ground to create nests and prefer sandy soil, which is probably why they like our area. This is a male, but the females are the ones that burrow and construct small cells containing pollen and nectar. She lays her eggs on this before sealing the cell. They overwinter there, safe from heat and frost. A female has a broad velvety area between the eyes, which looks a little like eyebrows. This bee does not have that. Another feature that the females have, which would be interesting to see, is that they look like they are carrying pollen under their armpits. They tuck pollen onto collecting hairs that are located on their upper hind legs.

Mining bees are solitary bees, but they will often nest communally and close together. A few even will share a nest entrance, but build their own brood cells inside. There can be as many as 30 entrances per square foot to various nests. A small mound of soil usually marks their nest entrance, which is about half an inch wide. However I think I would find it hard to identify one unless I saw a bee visiting the site

They emerge around mid-March when the temperatures are still chilly and there might still be some snow on the ground. They can be seen sunning themselves, so that they raise their body temperature enough so that they can fly.

DSC_6484Mining Bee

Whilst mining bees do have a stinger, it is very weak and it cannot penetrate human skin, so they do not pose a risk to people. They are essential pollinators and will visit a vast range of wildflowers, so very good to have around.

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