It surprises me as to how many years I took for granted the many little mounds of dirt in garden edge and sidewalk crack, of life underground. Admittedly they are mysterious and a bit frustrating. Last year Janet and Nancy and I sat with these bees for an hour watching them, and Nancy and I each tried with only modest success to photograph them. These bees circle and circle several holes, forcing us into a guessing game of which hole to watch, and then "poof" the bee vanishes down one of them. This year I tried again. Blurry as these photos may be, they are for now our best.
|Look close - an ant "hitchhiker" on this one's back.|
The bee did not fly until after the ant disembarked.
|Bee approaching ground nest. Nancy Partlow 2013|
• Halictidae includes sweat bees, are usually very small and metallicly shiny. Many are communal, sharing a common entrance and for a few there is even some shared provisioning and patroling, though usually every female is an egg layer. Some do not nest in the ground.
|drawing from UC Riverside 2003 webpage|
adaped from from Stephen et al., 1969
UCR link no longer works.
• Andrenidae bees are a "long tongued" ground nesting bee. The female plasters a (different) glandular mix onto the cell wall with a special paddle part of her hind end; her mixture glues the soil together. The food mass is typically more solid than Colletids. Some andrenids are parasitic "cuckoo bees" that rely on others bees to build and provision nests that they then overtake. There are many different species of Andrenidae bees; the subject of this blog is probably one. *
There are other groups of bees that also nest underground. Bumblebees often nest in the ground, depending upon what they find that suits them, and have different habits.
* I have since learned from fellow bee friend Rusty that this is indeed an Andrenid bee. Getting this bee to Genus will have to do, is where our knowledge stops, is as far as her informant is willing to go. If pressed, we might be able to narrow it down to one of a dozen or two possiblities, based on location, size, etc., but I am pleased that I can get this far -- and presently not driven to go farther.
Visit Rusty Burlew's page http://www.honeybeesuite.com/andrena-mining-bees/ for better photos and more detailed info as to why these are Andrena.
Bugguide - Native Bees of North America
Photos Glen Buschmann unless otherwise credited.