Small volcanoes erupting in your lawn in spring are a sure sign that you have some mining bees hard at work, and how very cute they are too.. and numerous. I must admit my heart sank when I read there are over 1,300 species in the world…which one to choose?
I decided on a European one and one from the USA. From Europe this is Andrena fulva the winsome little Tawny Mining Bee, extremely pretty in two tone russet and ginger, looking like a little bottle brush. This is the female. the male is not quite so colourful. The bee world has some very big colourful girls, rather the opposite to the bird world!
Photo of the male Andrena fulva by J C Shou, from great photo site Biopix here
Mining Bees or Digger Bees are solitary and “IBRA” the International Bee Research Association has a good PDF about solitary bees here. This is what they say about Andrena fulva
“The adults over winter in the ground and emerge in the spring. The females dig a tunnel into the ground, hence the need for easily workable soil, where the earth is bare or the grass is short. The tunnels are about 9mm in diameter and descend to a depth of 20 to 40 cm. At the end of the tunnel the bee will construct an oval cell and provision it with pollen and nectar. An egg is laid in
the cell, which is then sealed up. She then goes on to construct other branches to her tunnel and repeats the process laying about 5 eggs in her lifetime.
On cold days bees need to warm up before they can fly and so females are often seen in the morning sunbathing by tunnel entrances. “
Illustration from “How stuff works” here.
And below, a lovely photo from Dick at www.citybirding.blogspot.com of his little tawny mining bee peeping out of her burrow.. he says;
“Once in their nest they stay quite still just below the opening until you get near and they shoot back down to the bottom of the nest, out of sight”
But, don’t worry about your pristine lawns.. just live with it for a few weeks and enjoy the bees. David Kendall is an Entomologist and has these kindly word for this pretty and useful bee,
“The Tawny Mining Bee (Andrena fulva) is one of several species, commonly seen around gardens in early spring, which dig nest burrows in lawns and similar places. This bee is about the same size as a honeybee, but covered with fairly dense golden hairs.
The female bee makes a small volcano-like mound with the soil excavated from the nest. There may be many nests close together, giving the impression of communal life, but each female is actually working alone. Nesting activity lasts only a short time (perhaps 2-3 weeks), after which the small mounds of earth around each nest entrance soon disappear, with no permanent damage to the lawn. Take care not to confuse solitary bee nest mounds with the mounds of earth caused by the nesting activity of ant colonies. Solitary bee mounds have a single large entrance hole in the middle, and by watching for a short while on a warm sunny day, you will see the bees coming and going to collect pollen.
If left alone, these bees will often nest in the same area year after year, and provide an annual service by pollinating your early flowering fruit trees and shrubs (apples, pears, currants and gooseberries) and other garden plants - so helping to ensure good crops later in the year.
from his very nice readable site “Insects and other Arthropods” here
Some preliminary sketches: I feel I should have included a little volcano and a ray of warming sunshine too.
Bee No 8: The Female Tawny Mining Bee, Andrena fulva
Watercolour on Arches HP w/col paper: image 3.5 “