Thursday, 1 May 2008

Mining Bees

Mining bees are a subset of 'Solitary bees'. Solitary bees don't form communal hives or nests, rather they make their own nest - in this case a small tunnel in an earth bank - and lay their own eggs which they look after on their own. 'Solitary' is sometimes a misnomer, perhaps, since they often form communities of individual hives clustered together in close proximity.

This is Osmia rufa on a Dandelion:

And this is the same species near its nest:

Again, notice the absence of pollen baskets: solitary bees often gather pollen by squeezing it together under the abdomen and/or thorax.

I have a south-facing bank in my garden and there are many Osmia rufa and Andrena cineraria mines all in close proximity. These bees use landmarks such as stones and sticks to find their nests and it's interesting to see how lost they become when you're sitting watching their tunnels: a human makes a serious alteration to the visual geometry of the place.


Aynia said...

I haven't seen any of these yet. I'm beginning to wonder is there something wrong with my garden.

Aynia said...

Must have tempted fate because I found a tiny one in the kitchen going up the window. No idea what species but I think it makes its nest in holes in the lawn.

Stuart said...


The really tiny dark ones (<10mm) are likely to be something like Lassioglossum sp., but without catching them and getting them under a microscope you won't get an id to species.

Some of the Andrena sp. look like slightly thin bumblebees.

I'd expect to be finding the kleptoparasitic Nomada bees very shortly, since I saw them at these mines last year.

You can encourage solitary bees by providing 'bee hotels'...bundles of twigs and bamboo laid horizontally. Also bricks and logs/planks with different sized holes drilled in them.

Gill said...

They get very lost if you mow the lawn as well, thus flattening the mini-molehill round their holes. We have lots of tawny miner bees in our lawn which are coming out just now. There are even more next door for some reason.

Aynia said...

Gill, our lawnmower is broken! Probably means getting the guy next door with his ride-on to do it, so the bees will be ok - they are inaccessible to a ride on. I'll do a piece on my blog will all my little bee photos and perhaps someone reading will be able to help with id. The one from the other day is just like the lawn bees, but is quite hairy. I did try last year to get a photo of them looking out - but to no avail. Photos are a bit artistic and may not be easily identifiable.