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Andrena is a genus of solitary bees, which means the females build nests and care for broods alone. Some species are sub-social. In other words, females provide prolonged care to their larvae, as opposed to sealing up the nest with the food source. Mining bees are named after their nesting behaviour. They dig tunnel-like burrows in sandy, clay or loam soils, in which they lay their young. It's not unusual to see hundreds of mining bee nests clumped together in the same spot because females don't seem to mind a neighbour or two. It's thought that this is because having multiple nests in one place will decrease the total number of nests parasitised or predated. Andrena tend to be concentrated in temperate climates. There are only 14 recognised species in Africa, concentrated to northeastern parts of the continent.
Mining bees are excellent pollinators!
Sometimes they will nest in cultivated lawns.
Adults: They typically measure between 1-2cm, depending on species and sex. They possess lots of hair on the thorax and legs, which make them excellent pollinators. Some species will have shiny black-brown abdomens, whereas others are covered with plumages of fuzz. Generally speaking, they possess slender bodies. Hair tends to be brown, red, or silver-grey. Adults are often seen flying close to the ground as they find sites for egg-laying, or when tending to broods. Larvae and Eggs: These reside in burrows so are seldom seen.
Tiny mole-hills in lawns or on slopes. Slender bees hovering above ground or slopes.
Everywhere but Oceania and South America
Mining bees are important pollinators, so it's advised to welcome them into your garden ecosystem! You can encourage mining bees into your garden by leaving areas of bare ground or turf receiving plenty of sunlight, clear of mulch. The less interference with the soil is better for these bees. Likewise, by planting an array of indigenous plants which bloom during different seasons, you'll keep mining bees well-fed all year round.
Here are just a few selected plants favoured by solitary bees.
Erysimum 'Sugar Rush'