Mining bees (Andrena), sometimes known as Digger bees or Miner bees, are a type of solitary bee. As the name suggests, they don’t live in a colony controlled by a queen, they prefer to buzz solo (get it?).
While you won’t find them in large swarms like your average honey bee, they do tend to stick relatively close together and share resources. Researchers like to call them sub-social — this category fits them perfectly we think!
With over 1,300 species worldwide the Mining Bee is the largest genus in the Andrenidae family.
Mining Bees in the UK
Amazingly, Mining bees (Andrena) are the largest bee genus in the United Kingdom! We are lucky enough to house about 65 of these beautiful species. However, there are three which are more common than the rest. Let’s take a closer look at these guys, shall we?
Tawny mining bee (Andrena fulva)
The female Tawny mining bees are the size of a honey bee and sport dense, bright red or orange hair on their thorax. This gorgeous colouring continues onto their abdomen, but it tends to be a slightly lighter tone. Their legs, undersides and face are all pitch black. Incredibly distinguishable!
The males are famously harder to pick out. They are thinner and smaller than the female castes. Their hair isn’t as dense either, and they are usually a muddy brown colour.
Ashy mining bee (Andrena cineraria)
These guys are seriously striking and are the most distinctive out of all the spring-flying bees in the United Kingdom.
The female Ashy mining bee are honey bee sized (much like the Tawny mining bee (Andrena fulva)) but they display a glossy black abdomen. The sunlight catches them beautifully, showcasing an almost blue tint. If you look closely, you will see two light grey stripes on their thorax and the same colour on their face.
The male caste (or drone caste, if you want to be professional) looks pretty similar to the females but are smaller. Along the sides of their thorax, you will see more apparent grey hairs than the females, as well as on the upper side of the abdomen.
Early mining bee (Andrena haemorrhoa)
The females are a little smaller than a honey bee. They have a light brown thorax and look incredibly furry. As they age, the brown hairs might fall off and leave them with a smooth, black look — how stylish!
Of course, the male Early mining bees are smaller than the females. With this species of bee, they are seen far less often than the ladies.
You might have already guessed that Mining bees tend to live underground. If you step outside at just the right time, you may be lucky enough to see them burrowing into the earth and setting up their nests.
The female Miner bee will dig her own burrow for her young. She will use her strong body to excavate the earth out to make a nesting chamber. Here, she will drop pollen, nectar and lay her egg. Once she has finished with one chamber, she will seal it off before she starts on the next one.
Although they don’t nest together — they are solitary bees, remember — you can see them building near to each other to share food and such.
Do Mining Bees Sting?
Yes, Mining bees can sting. However, it is a very rare occurrence. Usually, they will only hurt you if you compromise their nest or accidentally step on them.
The best way to attract these beauties into your garden is to plant flowers that they prefer. You can try things such as:
- Wild geranium (Geranium maculatum)
- Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium reptans)
- Dogwoods (Cornus spp)
- Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia spp)
- Buttercups (Ranunculaceae)
- Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)
- Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa)
- Dandelions (Taraxacum)
- Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)
- Goldenrod (Solidago spp)
- Lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina)
- Yellow coneflower (Ratibida pinnata)
- Purple coneflower (Echinacea spp)
- Sunflowers (Helianthus)
- Asters (Aster amellus, frikartii, novae-angliae or novi-belgii)
So, there you have everything you could ever want to know about our wonderful Mining bees (Andrena)! Remember that all of our bees should be protected — we can’t live without them.