In the garden a few weeks ago, I watched as a small, gingery bee buzzed above a volcano-shaped mound in a flower bed, then landed and entered the hole at its summit.
This tawny mining bee (Andrena fulva) is a solitary bee, of which there are more than 200 hundred species in Britain. Solitary bees do not live in colonies, and females construct their nests without the help of worker bees. But like their better known cousins, the bumblebees and honeybees, they are excellent pollinators, picking up pollen on their hairy bodies and transferring it to other flowers as they go about their business. Sadly, they also share the same worrying future.
Loss of habitat is affecting pollinators across the country. You can help by growing bee-friendly plants, building or buying a bee-house, and leaving some areas of your garden undisturbed to encourage nest sites.
Other solitary bees at the House at Nab End:
The mining bees (Andrena) are the first bees to appear in Spring. Like the tawny mining bee, Andrena carantonica makes its nest in tunnels in the ground.
Red mason bee (Osmia rufa)
Often seen frequenting a warm, west-facing wall of the house. Red mason bees make their nests in pre-existing holes, including man-made bee houses.
With many thanks to Ian Beavis (@TWBC_Museum) for helping to identify the bees in this post.