I was mooching about the bottom end of the garden yesterday when my eye was caught by a bright orange flash among the leaves on the Gooseberry Bush. I had my camera with me luckily and was able to shoot off a couple of shots. The Tawny Mining Bee, Andrena fulva, has a single flight period each year and is on the wing from early April until early June (1,2).
The males emerge from hibernation before the females. The peak flight period coincides with the flowering periods of fruit trees such as Pear, Cherry and Apple. The males are 10 to 12 mm and the females 8 to 10 mm long. The females are covered with fox red hair on their backs and black on the underside, whilst the males are more slender and yellower in appearance. Pollen is collected from a wide range of plants in- cluding flowering trees and shrubs, weeds and garden species (1-3).
After mating the male dies and the female starts to build a nest. Sometimes more than a hundred females build nests in a few square metres but the Tawny Mining Bee normally does not create a colony, each female has her own nest. The nest entrances are surrounded by a volcano- like mound of excavated spoil. The nest is a vertical shaft 200 to 300 mm (8 to 12 in) with several brood cells branching off it. The female fills these cells with a mixture of nectar and pollen, on which she lays one egg in each cell. The larva hatches within a few days, grows quickly and pupates within a few weeks. The adults emerge in spring after hibernation (1-3).
Like many other insects Andrena fulva is parasitised. In a site in south Wales, N. panzeri accounted for 18% cleptoparasitism of A. fulva (i.e. 18% of the host’s offspring were replaced by N. panzeri offspring). Other inquilines encountered in the nests at this site were the bee-fly Bombylius major Linnaeus, the anthomyiid fly Leucophora obtusa and three mermithid nematodes (one in each of three female bees) (3).
The Tawny Mining Bee can be found over much of England and Wales, but it’s distribution falls off to the north of the country, and there has only been on record in Ireland. On continental Europe, the species is widespread and common across central Europe. But it is not found in Scandinavia and is restricted in the Mediterranean region.
- Tawny-mining Bee (Andrena fulva) Information Sheet 10. (2010) BWARS. http://www.bwars.com/sites/www.bwars.com/files/info_sheets/andrena-fulva-info-sheet.pdf. Accessed 2017.04.06
- Andrena fulva. Nature Spot. http://www.naturespot.org.uk/species/tawny-mining-bee. Accessed 2017.04.06
- Else, GR and Jones, N. (2011) Andrena fulva. BWARS. http://www.bwars.com/bee/andrenidae/andrena-fulva. Accessed 2017.04.06.
- Andrena fulva. NBN Gateway. https://species.nbnatlas.org/species/NHMSYS0000875063. Accessed 2017.04.06.