The Chocolate Mining Bee 
- Andrena carantonica or Andrena scotica

The 'Chocolate Mining Bee' (also known as Andrena scotica or Andrena carantonica) 

.... are solitary bee species.  Here are a pair mating:

Above: A pair of Andrena scotica - chocolate mining bees, mating. The upside down, dangling bee is the male.

I was fortunate enough to have this pair of chocolate mining bees ‘turn up’, or I should say ‘fall out’ of ’nowhere’ whilst gardening. 

I had just moved a currant bush in a pot, and topped up the bush with water, when this mating pair fell out onto the wet soil. 

I gently picked them up, and there they remained on my hand - the male dangling from the female, for no longer than a minute or two, just long enough for my husband to take a photograph before the two bees parted.  

They remained for a short while, then both flew off separately.

The male has a slightly narrow body in comparison with the female.

Above: Andrena scotica - Female.
Above - Andrena scotica Male. He is smaller than the female, with a narrower body. The thorax is paler in colour than that of the female.

The male is also smaller than the female, and the thorax is paler in colour. 

The female chocolate mining bee (the larger of the two bees) has tufts of hair on the hind legs - the scopa. These collect pollen.

Note the tufts of hair on the hind leg of the female.  These get covered in pollen.  The name ‘Andrena’ tells us that this bee is a mining bee.  Note they have quite long antennae.

What are the foraging preferences of the chocolate mining bee?

Andrena scotica  are seen in spring, foraging on spring flowering shrubs and plants.  They especially like to visit willows, hawthorns, fruit trees, maples, blackthorns, dandelions, umbellifers, hawk's beards and brambles, all of which are present in my surrounding area.  They will also visit brassica plants if left to flower.

Nesting habits of the chocolate mining bee

They may nest singly or in small, loose groups on sunny banks and slopes, and often amongst leaf litter.  Several females may share a common nest entrance.

Is it Andrena carantonica or Andrena scotica?

It's very frustrating at times, keeping up with various changes in classifications and names.  When I originally wrote this page, as far as I was aware, it was Andrena Carantonica.  
I have since noted that this species is and has been treated differently by entomologists.  Author of Field Guide To Bees Of Great Britain and Ireland, Steven Falk says:

"Note that this species has been known as A. carantonica in recent literature and has also been known as A. jacobi."

Read about more solitary bee species.

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