Andrena under the plum tree

I first noticed little mounds of soil under the plum tree in March 2013 and I saw my first mining bee pop its head out and look me in the eye (or so I thought it did!)

I was determined to photograph them and spent quite a bit of time on warmer days crouching under the plum tree watching them.  I did not have a Macro lens then so the photographs were not detailed.  However, it is very pleasant under the plum tree when it is in full flower with the sun shining and the bitter almond perfume of the flowers drifting around you.  I was not able to identify the bees last year, I could not even be sure what genera they belonged to – but I was hooked and I knew where to look for them this year when I was going to be more prepared to identify them.



The weather has been so mild (but very rainy) that when I looked on the first sunny day for ages, on the 23 February, I was surprised to see that the nests had started to appear.  The next day I saw my first bee emerge.


Yes, it was the same bee.


She left the nest too quickly to get a really good photograph but it was much better than last year – and I was very pleased to see the bees had survived in the sodden ground.  Mining bees usually prefer dry, soft soil.  Some like sandy sites or chalky soil or nice sunny banks to nest in.  The soil under my plum tree would never usually be very wet as my garden soil drains rapidly, probably as the region is based on limestone rock.  This year we have had unprecedented rain and many areas have flooded – happily not under my plum tree!

1-IMG_9411.wing venation

Two days later I was able to get some pictures from above that gave me a clear image of her fore wings.  The wings have three sub marginal cells and the lower border of the third one is longer than the middle one (sorry the red lines are very fine)  In addition, the basal vein meets the longitudinal vein at an acute angle (see better red arrow).  Also, the vein pattern is the same as a photograph of Andrena flavipes in “Bees of Surrey” by David W. Baldock.  So I am satisfied that it is an Andrena.



I don’t know what she has been doing as she seems to have something sticky on her foreleg.


She was taking time to groom herself which gave me time to get some photographs.

Yellow pollen

I didn’t see her on any flowers and I wondered if she had gathered pollen from the plum tree above us.  The photograph above shows a bumble bee gathering the plum pollen that seems to match but the Sallow (Salix caprea) at the bottom of the garden is also providing the same colour of pollen.  So it is hard to say at the moment what she is using.



I haven’t seen any parasitic bees this year but last year I saw what I think is Nomada fucata. This further convinces me that my mining bees are Andrena flavipes as these are parasitised by Nomada fucata.

Andrena on hand

She is a very sweet bee and hopefully I will be out there watching her in another day or two as the rain is forecast to stop and we are even promised some sunshine!


7 thoughts on “Andrena under the plum tree

    • I think it is very likely to be a bumble bee and very likely that it is nesting under the greenhouse. If the nest is successful, soon, you will not see the Queen any more but smaller worker bees will be born and there will be even more coming and going. Lucky you! I’ve had lots of Queens in the garden but I’ve not spotted a nest.


  1. Those are great shots of a bee exiting the ground nest. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the one in the tunnel. I enlarged it twice and yes, there it was. That must have taken some patience.
    I keep looking for evidence of mining bees around here, but haven’t seen any yet.


  2. The Andrena flavipes uses exactly the same site as the Andrena cineraria but she has not appeared yet. I think it is relatively common that mining bees share the same place, sometimes at the same time and sometimes at different seasons. I am also watching another site I saw last year. This is not in the garden but near an area of vines. A track has been compressed by tractors and has no vegetation on it and you can see the piles of soil along the edges. They are very tiny and I have only identified them as belonging to the Halictes as the female has a slit that is very obvious in her abdomen. I think she is probably a Lassioglossom. What is your soil? Chalky/ sandy/ clay? Look in dry, sunny areas where there is little vegetation.


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