I made my first visit of the season the Spetchells, the chalk mound near Prudhoe, Northumberland, to see the bees. When I arrived there were thousands of bees on the wing, nearly all males and nearly all buffish mining bees (Andrena nigroaenea). Many were simply hanging around waiting for the females to emerge.
Here is a male resting on a lump of chalk.
Mining bees are solitary bees and each female digs a nest in hole in the ground, leaving a small volcano of chalk.
The female buffish mining bee is slightly larger than the male and is about the size of a honey bee. A few females had emerged and started digging.
Mating in these bees is a rather frantic and ungentlemanly affair. The female is jumped on by half a dozen or more males and there is a frantic scrum of bee bodies.
It was all rather too much for this chap who had to take a sip of nectar.
The next three photos show the comparison between a male on the left and a female on the right.
I'll be back there soon to see the females bringing pollen back to their nests and to watch the cuckoo bees sneaking into the nests while the owners are away. One interesting observation - the hairy-footed flower bees I wrote about last week make a loud buzz as they fly but these mining bees' flight is silent. This number of honey bees around a hive would make a lot of noise.