Tag Archives: “Andrena fulva”

April Transformation

We had a very cold and somewhat wet March, and April has been somewhat similar, bright and sunny but often windy and chilly at the very same time. However, a huge change is underway and spring is unfolding by the day and the hour. Only a few days ago I was delighted to see a queen Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum) sunbathing on some bare ground among the violets.

A furry queen Carder Bee, which usually appears later in spring than the much larger Buff-tailed Bumblebee queens. This is very much the spring bumblebee.
A furry queen Carder Bee, which usually appears later in spring than the much larger Buff-tailed Bumblebee queens. This is very much the spring bumblebee.

Particularly delightful is the sight of Tawny Mining Bees (Andrena fulva) on the wing.  Usually males appear first, but this year I spotted a big furry female days before the first male. This is officially our rarest species of solitary bee, and as a result the National Biodiversity Data Centre are looking for recorded sightings from the public.  Here is a link to the record sheet, which is easy to follow and make submissions on: http://records.biodiversityireland.ie/submit_records.php?fk=SolitaryBeesStandard&caching=cache

And here is a photo I got two days ago of a female Tawny Mining Bee:

25689979503_90c1d788e2And here is a photo of a male Tawny Mining Bee from the same day:

The male Tawny Mining Bee has a distinctive white 'beard'.
The male Tawny Mining Bee has a distinctive white ‘beard’.

There is a similar but smaller species of mining bee also appearing right now, the Early Mining Bee (Andrena haemorrhoa). The males are very similar to the Tawny Mining Bee males, but much smaller and lack the white beard. The female is very beautiful, and here is a photo of a female from the same day as the Tawny Mining Bee photos:

A pretty female Early Mining Bee. She is much smaller then the female Tawny Mining Bee, and about the size of a male of that species.
A pretty female Early Mining Bee. She is much smaller then the female Tawny Mining Bee, and about the size of a male of that species.

Also buzzing around the lawn, feeding on dandelion flowerheads is a small and somewhat sinister-looking wasp. This is in fact yet another bee, but for the mining bees it is indeed sinister, as it’s a parasitic bee which lays its eggs in the nests of mining bees, its grubs killing and eating the mining bee grubs. This particular species of cuckoo bee is Panzer’s Nomada (Nomada panzeri):

Panzer's Nomada
Panzer’s Nomada. There are many similar Nomada Bee species.

But it hasn’t all been bees. Despite the cold some sunny days have warmed up sheltered areas enough for migrating butterfly species to begin flying about. So far I have only seen two butterfly species, and this one is the second, a Peacock (Inachis io):

26226455051_292645e39b

April Warming and the Mining Bees

Saturday was the first decent warm sunny day in Wicklow this spring, and Tawny Mining Bees immediately appeared. Most of them were males, about twelve all newly hatched out, but there were two larger females giving them a wide berth.

My first photo of a Tawny Mining Bee this year, a male. The males don't look particularly distinctive and not exactly handsome and their sole objective is to mate with females, which gives them a peculiar 'culture' and distinctive weapns too, as you'll see.
My first photo of a Tawny Mining Bee this year, a male. The males don’t look particularly distinctive and not exactly handsome and their sole objective is to mate with females, which gives them a peculiar ‘culture’ and distinctive weapns too, as you’ll see.
It's not easy to get a good photo of a Tawny Mining Bee, particularly the males, but I finally got a decent headshot. Look at the size of those jaws!
It’s not easy to get a good photo of a Tawny Mining Bee, particularly the males, but I finally got a decent headshot. Look at the size of those jaws!

Many mammal species have horns and antlers which allow the males to fight off other males for the right to mate with females and pass on their genetics. Similarly male Tawny Mining Bees have enormous jaws to allow them win these fights. The female is a very different insect.

Looking like a miniature bumblebee, female Tawny Mining Bees have stout reddish furry bodies and distinctive black heads. They also rarely sit still.
Looking like a miniature bumblebee, female Tawny Mining Bees have stout reddish furry bodies and distinctive black heads. They also rarely sit still.
Under the wings you can see a very handsome shimmering abdomen covered in horizontal rows of red fur which glints in bright sunlight. A lovely insect. But they live only a very short time.
Under the wings you can see a very handsome shimmering abdomen covered in horizontal rows of red fur which glints in bright sunlight. A lovely insect. But they live only a very short time.

Tawny Mining Bees fly mostly for the month of April and not much beyond that. So for the next few weeks they will be very busy doing important work, which involves a huge amount of digging.

 

Extinct Bee! – a slightly crazy story

Some of my readers and viewers might remember the photos I posted of the beautiful Tawny Mining Bee (Andrena fulva) I posted in early April: http://www.gardenofireland.com/workbook/?p=649

In the article I was highlighting the incredible complex of burrows on my front lawn, extending for many square metres. But there was an incredible twist to this story which I only became aware of last week when I received and read the autumn bulletin from the Biodiversity Data Centre in Waterford. Dr. Úna Fitzpatrick was delighted to inform readers that:

“The most exciting bee story of the year was the rediscovery of the extinct tawny mining bee (Andrena fulva) by Roger Goodwillie in Co. Kilkenny. This species has only ever been recorded from Co. Kilkenny and was last spotted by Arthur Stelfox in 1925.” (BI Issue 10, pg. 12.)

The ‘extinct’ Tawny Mining Bee. I took this photo in my garden in 2010.

Needless to say, this story took me by surprise and showed just how ignorant I was of the range and status of species in Ireland, because I had seen this species in my garden for many years and both my brother Trevor and I had been photographing them since April 2009. They were never particularly numerous, but this year there were over two hundred burrows of this ‘extinct’ bee in my lawn alone. And when I contacted Úna Fitzpatrick she was very, very surprised.

I also had video:

But that is why the work of the National Biodiversity Data Centre is so important. If you see something you think is unusual, or which might be rare, or even ‘extinct’, then visit the website www.biodiversityireland.ie and contact the relevant person and check out their records and submit your own.