These wonderful solitary bees are on the wing just now. They are female tawny mining bees. I don't know who chose the common name for this bee but "tawny" mining bee seems to be underselling it. Tawny means yellowish brown or orange-brown but when you see this bee in the sunshine it is a vivid orange and looks like a glowing spark from a bonfire.
The males are smaller, slimmer and less brightly coloured.
The tawny mining bee is Andrena fulva and it is fairly widespread in lowland parts of England & Wales. We do see it up here in the North East but these photos were taken in the churchyard of the 12th century Church of St Peter & St Paul in Nether Heyford in Northamptonshire. Fifty years ago I used to ring the bells there but now I spend time crawling round the churchyard photographing bees.
In the churchyard there are dozens and dozens of tiny soil volcanoes, each one being the entrance to an underground bee nest. I guess one reason the bees have chosen this spot is because the soil is sandy and the ground has been undisturbed for many years, probably for centuries. The bees may have been there for hundreds of years as well.
The main shaft leads to four our five side burrows, each ending in a single cell which will produce one bee. A female might make two or three nests in a season. These females are returning with pollen loads on the scopa, the brush of hairs on the tibia of the hind leg.
The bees often pause for a rest after returning from a foraging trip and before going underground.
The male bee's only interests in his his short life are sipping nectar and mating. Males can mate more than once (unlike male honey bees) but the females aren't interested once they have mated - they have enough to do digging the nest, collecting pollen and laying eggs. That doesn't stop the males trying but this one was out of luck.
You can find a BWARS information sheet on Andrena fulva here.
Bee of the week has taken over from Bird of the week for a while - I don't know how long I'll keep it up. My plan at the moment is for TrogTrogBee to stick to honey bees and for all other bees to stay on this blog along with all my other wildlife photos, although that may change.