Monday, 7 May 2018

You can judge a bee by the company he keeps

I noticed these bees flying while I was walking around Gosforth Park Nature Reserve.  I could see that they were male Andrena mining bees but unusually I didn't have a camera and didn't have time to investigate, so I returned the next day.  They were flying only an inch or so off the ground and very slowly, exploring the path and the leaf litter and occasionally stopping to rest.

With a few exceptions, male Andrena bees are not easy to identify, for me at least.  I was preparing to go home with the photos and look them up in Steven Falk's field guide when I spotted a female bee.  She was clinging onto a tree seedling about two or three inches high and was immediately recognisable as an orange-tailed mining bee (Andrena haemorrhoa).

She was very clean and shiny and I guessed she was freshly emerged.

She was grooming and stretching and was repeatedly stretching her right wings.  The front wing looks slightly crumpled at the tip and the two wings are separated.  You can see the row of hooks on the leading edge of the rear wing that should hold the two together.  I don't know if she was just getting it sorted out after emerging from her cocoon or if there was something wrong with it.

After a few minutes she dropped off onto the leaves and just waited.

The presence of this bee made it likely that the males were also Andrena haemorrhoa so I watched for a few minutes. The first one to find her was shrugged off but the second one had more luck, proving he is the same species.

Female mining bees dig holes in the ground for their nests.

These bees are in the edge of a well trodden path  Although their nest holes are separate they are close together in an aggregation.

This female was peeping out of the entrance but she wouldn't come out while I was watching.

This male was waiting in the entrance of another hole but he didn't dig it.

A female walked past but she wasn't the owner of the hole either.

Orange-tailed mining bees are common and widespread but before this I have mainly seen them on flowers.  Now I know where they live.

PS  "A man is known by the company he keeps" is a the moral of Aesop's fable The Ass and His Purchaser.


  1. Good to have found the nest area, were there any Nomada about?

    1. I didn't see any Philip but it was cool and breezy. I'll look again tomorrow when the weather should be better.