Friday, April 6, 2012

Miner Bees, Part Two

Miner bees are an entertaining lot...

... at least I think so.   For instance, I thoroughly enjoyed watching this miner bee...
Miner Bee
... waving its forelegs in a director-like manner as if it was orchestrating the arrival of spring from its inconspicuous burrow.  I posted a bit more about this "Conductor" in part one of this mini series on Miner Bees.
Mining bee
 This spring I found quite an aggregation of these bee mines on a roadside embankment.  Some of the mines were actively attended by the honey-bee sized hairy bees.
Hairy bee
I've seen these springtime bees visiting some of the earliest spring flowers in our yard. 
Mining bees (Andrena spp) and Cellophane Bees (Colletes) have lots of hair and smokey wings...
 ... and they like to dig holes, or burrows, in loose soil that has little vegetation.
Mining bee nest
 On this particular roadside, the underlying soil is much lighter colored than the surface and so it's easy to see the dirt piles the bees excavated.
Mining bee burrows
 In fact the light-colored, excavated sand shows up well enough that, from a distance, I easily noticed the large number of the mines on this embankment.
Roadside bee nests
Here is another photo of the roadside with the colony of  bee nests.
Maybe "cluster" or "aggregation" is a better word than "colony" because they are solitary bees but they don't mind living in close proximity to each other.Many bee nests

These bee nests remind me of the mine dumps from old mines like this one pictured below(right). This is the headframe of the Yankee Girl Mine near Red Mountain Pass along the Million Dollar Highway north of Silverton, Colorado.
Miner bee burrow
Yankee Girl Mine

   These bees like to dig holes in the ground... so do some of my homeschooled children. I'll think I'll give the kids a science project of carefully profiling one of the burrows.  I think they'll like to see for themselves what's down in one of those mines.  They will also enjoy seeing the form of the bee's underground tunnels and learning what bee's larvae eat. 
   While I was observing the bees' nests there were some small, reddish bees patrolling around in the vicinity. When I take the kids to explore the "mines", I hope they notice these other bees and wonder, "What's up with that?"

Miner Bees mini series, part one.
Miner Bees mini series, part three.
  P.S. Please note that when we dug open one of these nests we discovered that the bees were not miner bees, but Cellophane Bees.

1 comment:

  1. Still learning lots Dana. Haven't seen these bees here in Nova Scotia ... so I Googled 'em.
    And learned that they are called, Andrenid bees or "digger bees" or "mining bees". Apparently they are helpful at pollinating blueberries here in Nova Scotia. I'll have to keep an eye out for them.