A very early bee

A very early bee

Andrena 26.1.2016

We were out walking on Tuesday 26 January 2016, it was nearly five o’clock in the afternoon and I had not bothered to take my camera along.  Nevertheless, I can’t help keeping my eyes on dandelions, checking for bumble bees, but instead I spotted a solitary bee: an Andrena on a dandelion.  My husband came to my rescue and took a photograph for me.

I think it is an Andrena haemorrhoa – its common name being the Early Mining Bee but by early in the U.K. they mean you can see it usually starting in March.  I felt rather sorry for it as it was not moving but sheltering in the dandelion for warmth.

The exceptionally mild weather with temperatures peaking up to seventeen degrees centigrade with sunshine has obviously woken some wild bees from their winter dormancy.  Luckily the flowers are being fooled too but I hope she has enough strength to make it back to her tunnel.

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Osmia cornuta male

Osmia cornuta male

Carder

I was happily watching the bumble bees on the winter honeysuckle when I saw a much smaller bee that was not a bumble bee.

Back

It was moving much quicker than the bumbles and much more difficult to get a picture of it.

Side eating 2

The problem is that when it sticks its head into the flower it covers up its most distinguishing feature.

Upside down Osmia

Even though he is upside down this photograph shows the white facial hairs of the Osmia cornuta male.  They are visible while he is flying but not so easy to catch for a photograph.

Osmia cornuta male

Sideways on you can see he is slimmer than the females which should be around in another few days.  The temperature has gone up to 21 degrees C in the garden today (8 March 2015) and it was the same temperature yesterday despite overnight lows approaching zero.

I’ve put my bee hotels out today and reminded my husband that he had promised to make me another one this year.

Male Andrena

Our big plum tree is just starting to flower and I saw what I think is a male Andrena on the flowers.

Mandibles

He has prominent mandibles and I wonder whether it could be an Andrena fulva male as I always see the females on my blackcurrant bushes every year.

Solitary bee season seems to have started suddenly now that the rain has stopped and the sun has reappeared.

Andrena under the plum tree

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.

24.2.14

24.2.14

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.

Andrena

Yes, it was the same bee.

Andrena

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.

26.2.14

26.2.14

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

Andrena

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.

7.3.2013

7.3.2013

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!