These Gentle Bees nest in the Ground

We are kicking off pollinator week with a look at mining bees: these interesting pollinators who have been doing the job long before honeybees made it to our coasts.  I’ve been a little obsessed lately, watching these mining bees swarm near a patch of Black-Eyed Susans.  They are relatively quiet (unlike the carpenter bees that hang out on the beautyberry) but fierce little dramas seem to be playing out every day.

This video was a fascinating one for me to work on, because I actually have more questions about bees AFTER doing research and filming than I did when I started.  (So if you’re an entomologist reading this, please reach out!)

I have photographed bees that look very similar to the bees that are hovering and digging into nests gathering pollen and nectaring on nearby Sea Oxeye Daisy. I love the way their wings look so detailed at the edges.

When you live an a community that focuses on nature, it’s a bonding experience to watch something together, and I had such a good time with neighbors from at least 5 houses, watching these bees and trying to understand the complicated world of insects.  

Based on what I understand, the females excavate burrows that they line with pollen.  They lay an egg and then supply the egg with a food pellet made of pollen and nectar.  I am assuming the females are the ones with the orange pollen deposits.

I have so many questions about these Mining Bees

The males are swarming around the burrows.  Do they protect a specific burrow?  Do they enter the burrows?  Supposedly they can’t sting, but they regularly seem to attack another bee, sometimes to the death.  Is it the same species?  Are they competing within the species for females?

Here's a longer nature observation

Since it’s pollinator week, it’s a great time to get outside for a micro-safari.  Find a native plant (My current obsession for this is toothache tree, but the sea oxeye daisies shown in those pics also work well) and see what amazing mini-world you might miss if you walked right on by.  And it’s even fun to do with a friend– try narrating the action like it’s a sports game or reality tv show!  And if you want to see how obsessed someone can get with bees, check out this PBS Nature Show that a wildlife photographer created during pandemic lockdown, called My Garden of A Thousand Bees.