"There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion" Francis Bacon 1561-1626

Thursday, 4 March 2010

The Glamorous Grey Mining Bee

In my set of very bad and blurred photos from our UK garden last year is one of a black and white bee. I am still not sure exactly what it is.  It could be a cuckoo bumble bee or it could be one of these, the beautiful and glamorous Andrena cineraria, so very chic in black and white, a real little film star of a bee. As I was painting her of I was thinking of Audrey Hepburn in her black and white Ascot dress and the beautiful paintings of Tissot. She (the bee) has two ruffs of silky white hair on her thorax, like a tightly fitting, fur trimmed bolero. (This is what hours of solitary confinement at the drawing board does for you..!)

Andrena cineraria..(Latin  cinis, ashes) is one of the huge Andrena genus of mining bees. The Discover Life site lists hundreds, and it seems there are over 1,300 species worldwide. 

Bee behaviour and Bee homes

While researching I came across this lovely photo from Stuart Dunlop’s Donegal Wildlife Blog. This is from his entry “Sun!” Monday 5 May 2008: 

“This is another of the mining bees from my garden: the beautiful Andrena cineraria.
Photo Stuart Dunlop.
That shot required knowledge of the behaviour of the bee: they land and very quickly bury their heads in the florets, so all you get is an abdomen shot. But they tend to do a slow 360 degree turn before they fly off. So if you watch where they land and wait for them to complete their rotation you can get the shot as they prepare to take off.”

I am not an insect photographer and so admire a good photograph. Good equipment has something to do with it of course, but understanding your subject, watching and learning and being patient help too. 

Here is another photograph from Stuart’s other pre blog website, “Hedgerow18” , which is a superb photographic resource with many more photos and observations of Irish wild life.

aggregation-webphoto Stuart Dunlop.

It is a nest site which the Andrena cineraria is sharing with Halictus rubicundus. These sites are called aggregations or as Christopher O’Toole and Anthony Raw from their excellent book “Bees of the World” would call them “bee villages” because although there are many together, they are all separate nests. Some ground nesting sites can be huge. They mention one in Russia that was 10m to 150m wide and extended for 7 Km. as they say, “a huge metropolis rather than village”.

“A potential problem for a bee which nests in a dense village is finding its own nest amongst a plethora of entrance holes. The returning forager will find her way back to the general area of the village by means of her mental map of memorised distant and near landmarks…..Having got as far as the village  our homeward bound female uses close landmarks to get to the immediate area of her nest entrance. A female often inspects several nest holes with her antennae before deciding which is her own ..

Scent it seems, then plays a role in locating her actual nest. Below the surface, the nest will look something like this, a central  tunnel with chambers radiating out. It’s a lot of work for a small bee. 

nest Nest typical of the Andrena mining bees from “Bees of the World” by Christopher O’Toole and Anthony Raw.

I have also read that Andrena bees like to live in “green roofs”. Green roofs are such a nice concept and such a good way of extending a small garden. There is a lot of information about green roofs at LivingRoofs.org.

The Painting

This is the female bee who is chunkier than the male. They, along with many other bees, love the early flowers of Hawthorn which is an important supplier of both pollen and nectar. One of my very favourite times in Lincolnshire is early summer when the lanes are white with May blossom, Cow Parsley and the candles of the magnificent Horse Chestnut trees.  There was talk of some problems for Horse Chestnuts in the UK. I hope they have a solution.

and sketchsm 

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The Grey Mining Bee, Andrena cineraria and Common Hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna

andrena sm

9 comments:

Suz said...

oh my so glad bloomingwriter showed me the way to your blog..
It is fantastic

Shady Gardener said...

Even though your photo was blurry, your artwork is not! ;-)

Want to see more great bee photos? A recent post by Kathleen at Kaseys Korner
http://kaseyskorner.typepad.com/kaseys_korner/2010/03/the-choice-of-early-blooming.html

I hope it's okay that I give you links to bee photos. :-)

guild-rez said...

Thank you for sharing your beautiful drawings and information.
I have started to replace our lawn with white clover. The bees have arrived in our garden more frequently and I enjoy watching them.
No bees no flowers.
No flowers no bees.
- Cheers Gisela,
Toronto Canada.

Melanie said...

Valerie a lot of interesting information. I've always been interested in bees I didn't know some bees lived in nests underground.

sharp green pencil said...

Thank you all! and an extra thankyou to Jodi at Bloomingwriter http://bloomingwriter.blogspot.comfor her really lovely writeup! I seriously have to keep up the quality now!
I am having a quick break sadly not rest and relaxation but reworking and revisions
SG: Always like to see new bee photos thank you they are great!

Stone Art said...

I must say, your drawings are absolutely fantastic. I love them.

Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

I'm visiting from Jodi's blog and so glad I did. Your art is amazing. The drawings are so realistic.

Mindy Lighthipe said...

Absolutely beautiful drawing.

sharp green pencil said...

Thank you all so much, I hope to get to visit you all and your blogs very soon. maybe post bees though!
Stone art..: did try to leave a comment on your blog the maze was wonderful!
Thank you Catherine..: I am trying to get the bees right, species wise, but still keep some of their character so they are not just a scientific rendering.
Mindy .. lovely to have you drop by. Readers please go to Mindys blog to see some wonderful bugs and botanicals and more!