On Sunday, April 1, as I was marveling at the number of honey bees foraging on early-blooming and invasive weedy coltsfoot flowers, I noticed a bee that was not a honey bee! Here it is:
|Andrena sp. on coltsfoot|
For years, we have noticed a myriad of low-flying insects over a part of our lawn. When I became a beekeeper and suddenly found myself much more aware of insects of all kinds, I realized they were a native bee species. A bit of searching in the wonderful Xerces Society book, Attracting Native Pollinators, led to the identification as an andrenid bee, otherwise known as a miner bee for its method of excavating a nest tunnel in the ground. They emerge in the spring, often the first bees of the season, as they possibly are here. Last year I first noticed them much later than April 1, and after I made note of this one solitary individual, I ventured over to the area where they typically have had their numerous nest holes. Yes! There they were, not in the great numbers that hopefully there will be later in the spring, but at least 20 or so flying close to the ground.
Several of the photographs allowed me to count the segments in the insect's antenna. The odd-numbered result leads to the identification of a male andrenid, but the species is unknown. As is the case with most native bees, a positive identification would mean killing the bee and examining it and several dissected body parts under the microscope. I am happy enough to know that it is a miner, and that it is the first of hopefully many kinds of bees to forage here this season! No April Foolin'!