For April 2024, the Wildcare species of the month is the Tawny Mining Bee.

Did you know that 90% of the UK's 267 bee species are solitary? While honeybees and bumble bees often hold the limelight, it's solitary bees that do more than their fair share of pollination. As they have no queen or colony to protect, they are non-aggressive so won't sting if disturbed, and their role in the ecosystem supports a wide variety of plants, including many wildflowers and crops.

The Tawny Mining Bee (Andrena fulva) are one of the UK's most recognisable species. They are 8-12mm long, and are named for the female's bright tawny-orange fur on the thorax and abdomen. Males are slightly longer and thinner, and are a paler orange colour with a tuft of white fur on their heads.

Where are they found?

Tawny Mining Bees are a common species in the UK, and are found throughout England and Ireland. They are adaptable insects, being found in a variety of habitats including gardens, meadows, and woodland edges. They're commonly spotted in April and May after emerging from hibernation, and the females begin searching for suitable nesting sites in sandy, loamy soils. As their name suggests, the Tawny Mining Bee and other mining bees excavate small chambers into soil to create their nests, laying one egg per chamber and creating distinctive little spoil heaps around the entrance. Although they are solitary in nature, females will often prefer to create their nests close together in suitable sites.

The entrance of a mining bee nest
A female Tawny Mining Bee

What do they eat?

Like all bees, and opposed to wasps, Tawny Mining Bees are vegetarians. They aren't very fussy with their food, feeding on the nectar and pollen of a variety of wildflowers and woodland plants including beech, hawthorn, holly, oil-seed rape, verbena and fruit trees.

As they travel, their foraging helps to pollinate the flowers of each plant. Once the female lays her eggs, her larvae are provided with a personal stash of pollen and nectar on which to feed before pupating.

How do we help protect them?

Like many species of bee, Tawny Mining Bees face threats from habitat loss, pesticide use and climate change. As solitary bees, they do not produce honey, but their crucial role in pollination helps sustain ecosystems and support biodiversity. They help to pollinate a very wide number of trees and flowers, including food species for humans.

Conservation efforts should aimed at protecting pollinator habitats, reducing pesticide usage, and raising awareness about the importance of bees, which can help safeguard the future of these vital insects. Here's some things you can try:

  • Planting their favourite flowers that bloom in early Spring will help give them a much needed food source when emerging from hibernation and to give to their eggs. You'll benefit by having beautiful garden flowers or some delicious Tawny Mining Bee-pollinated fruit too!
  • Help raise awareness for the plight of bees by getting involved in annual events such as World Bee Day on 20th May, or the Solitary Bee Week in July.
  • Support other solitary mason and leafcutter bees too, by providing them with a Bee Brick or another solitary bee nest in which to create their nests
A male Tawny Mining Bee feeding from blackthorn flowers