Mining Bee: Andrena thoracica

This attractive bee (Andrena thoracica) is a member of the andrena family which are mining bees and as such, nest in holes they excavate in the earth, usually sandy soils that are easy to burrow in to. In such soils you often see little volcanoes, a conical heap of sand with a hole at the centre and these can be the work of mining bees although digger wasps also do this.
There are several species in the family, some
difficult to tell apart but this one, Andrena thoracica, is quite distinctive because it is generally black but with a bright orange/brown thorax.
The Andrena's also have short tongues which limits the sort of flowers they can visit to gather pollen and they can be important pollinators of such flowers whereas bumblebees have long tongues and specialise in tubular flowers.
Andrena bees are amongst the first species of bees to appear in the spring although this one, thoracica, comes later. This one was photographed on Wareham Common on a meadow thistle in July.
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