- Common name(s)
- Ashy Mining Bee
- Scientific name
- Andrena cineraria
- Bee group
- A species of solitary bee, belonging to the 'Mining Bee' group
- When to see it
- March – June
The Ashy Mining Bee is one of the most distinctive spring-flying solitary bees. A species of mining bee, the monochrome females excavate their nests in the ground and often nest close together to form large groups. Out early in the year, the Ashy Mining Bee depends on early-flowering shrubs for nectar and pollen.
The honeybee-sized and monochrome females are unmistakable. Females have two broad ashy-grey hair bands across the front and bottom of the thorax, and ashy-grey hairs on the face. The abdomen is sparsely haired, revealing a shiny abdomen that gives a blue sheen. The legs are covered in dense black hairs.
Males are smaller than females and have very long antennae. Males are less distinctive than females but have extensive ashy-grey hair across their thorax and these hairs extend onto the abdomen. There is also a conspicuous tuft of neat grey hair on the face, often referred to as resembling a ‘shoe brush’. Faded males are difficult to tell apart from males of other Mining Bee species.
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Females are ground-nesters, excavating their nests in bare or short-vegetated ground. This excavated material builds up around the nest entrance to form distinctive volcano-like mounds, a characteristic feature of mining bees. Nest tunnels have been reported up to a depth of 20 cm and consist of a series of egg cells. Each egg is provisioned with pollen and nectar, and lined with a waterproof substance. While solitary, females often nest close together in large aggregations at suitable nesting sites.
The Ashy Mining Bee can be found in a variety of habitats and occasionally gardens. An early-flying bee, it depends largely on spring-flowering shrubs for nectar and pollen.
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There are records of this species from Northumberland and County Durham, with fewer records further north of the region. In 2020, the North East Bee Hunt received ten records of the Ashy Mining Bee, mainly from areas along the Tyne. This species is considered common and widespread across much of Britain and Ireland, and is thought to be increasing in both range and abundance in the south.