Posted by: Ross Gardner | April 1, 2021

The endeavours of early spring

The warm days have encouraged something of a flush of insect life out into the open. The real surge of life is yet to come, but those more hardy, more adventurous early risers have brought a noticeable buzz of activity into the quieter corners of our green places.

A few species of mining-bee habitually emerge early in the spring. The conspicuously ginger-haired tawny mining bee (Andrena fulva) is one, a frequenter of gardens and the excavators of the little ‘volcanoes’ of soil that might appear in the lawn. These are the ‘mine’ entrances whose passages lead to a cell (or cells) into which these solitary bees deposit an egg.

It was not the tawny that I discovered in the woods yesterday, but another early species, Clarke’s mining bee (Andrena clarkella). I noticed the honey bee-sized insect buzzing deliberately about the face of a bank of bare soil. The pollen brushes on her hind legs were laden with a mixture of pollen and honey that she will place in one of the subterranean cells on top of which she will lay an egg. She had already dug out her burrow and I watched (and photographed) as she settled, having seemingly satisfied herself that it was safe to enter, before proceeding to dig her way into the finely worked soil of her previous labours and disappear from view.

It might have been that her neighbour, having stocked one of her own cells or perhaps just completed her excavations and now ready to go foraging, was waiting for me to move off before heading out…

With cold weather set to return, their promptness may be just as well.

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