The Ashy Mining Bee - Andrena cineraria, is a harmless and beautiful ground nesting bee.
They nest in aggregations – or communal groups, and many bees may be seen in a lawn or area of short, grassy turf, on chalky ground.
I was very grateful for this photograph below, sent to me by Liz Fenn in spring 2014. Ashy mining bees are not seen in the region where I live, and I have not yet been able to capture my own photograph.
This is a female, having two well-defined pale bands and a pale tuft on the front of the head. Males are usually slimmer than females, and have greyish white hair on the abdomen. Abdomens in the females are blackish-blue and quite glossy.
Females excavate burrows in the ground of about 10 – 20cm in depth, with two or three cells per burrow. They have the interesting habit of closing the entrances to their burrows when disturbed or during wet weather, but keep them open otherwise, including between foraging trips.
Larvae develop and mature in the cells, and eventually overwinter underground as adults in the natal cells.
In the south of England and Wales (less common in Scotland), some observations in Ireland, but its range extends across central Europe and up to Scandinavia.
They are usually univoltine (meaning they have one brood period – with males flying out from march to April, mating with females around April (females are active mating, then nesting from April to June). It is not clear whether later recordings suggest a second brood period, or delayed emergence of bees.
Andrena cineraria, are polylectic, meaning they will forage from a range of unrelated and diverse plant species. They may be seen along verges and hedgerows foraging from buttercups (Ranunculus spp.), dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), daisies (Bellis perennis) mustards (Brassica spp.), gorse (Ulex Europaea), brambles (Rubus spp.), blackthorn (Prunus spinosa, and hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium).
You can encourage them into your garden with fruit trees (especially cherry, plum and pears), willow (Salix spp.) , and old fashioned and wild roses (Rosa spp.).
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