Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Meet the pretty Tawny mining-bee (Andrena fulva)

The pretty female Tawny mining-bee
Have you seen some odd little "ant-hills" with a hole in the middle in your garden or local park recently? You may have seen the nesting burrows of the Tawny mining-bee, Andrena fulva.

Tawny mining-bees are quite wide-spread in England and Wales and like to nest in lawns and short turf. The pretty female bee which is covered in dense reddish hairs on the top of the thorax and abdomen and black hairs on the head, side of thorax and legs digs into the soil to build a nesting burrow. Normally 4-5 lateral burrows radiate from the main shaft, each ending in a cell, filled with an egg and food provision for the larvae . The loose soil the female bee excavates looks a bit like the loose soil you find at ant nests. But look closer and you will probably find the bees swarming around their nesting burrows. Ant nests also have no big nest entrance hole in the middle of the mound of soil.

Nesting burrows have a big entrance hole in the middle

Beside the pretty females you will probably see smaller bees with a brownish-greyish colour and a white beard at the lower face. These are the Tawny mining-bee males.

The Tawny mining-bee males have a white beard at the lower face

Tawny mining-bees fly between March and June and like to visit a variety of different flowers such as fruit trees and fruit bushes, blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), buttercup (Ranunculus sp.) and daisies (Bellis perennis). The bees fly quite low above the ground and are also quite fast flyers.

Mating Tawny mining-bees, the little male is behind the female

So next time you find some "ant-hills" have a closer look, you may have found an aggregation of Tawny mining-bee nesting burrows. If you find an aggregation of Tawny mining-bees submit your sightings to BWARS (Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society): http://www.bwars.com/index.php?q=content/submit-sighting-andrena-fulva-tawny-mining-bee

The female bees have reddish hair on the thorax and abdomen
This spider was lurking near where the bees were flying, probably waiting for a nice bee-meal

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