The Orange-tailed mining bee (Andrena haemorrhoa) is also referred to as the Early mining bee due to its habit of emerging from over-wintered nests as early in the year as March. In truth, however, many Andrena species put in an early appearance, making them important pollinators of orchard fruit such as apples, which you can see from the photograph above, taken in my urban garden earlier this year. So “Orange-tailed” is a more descriptive name.
Thanks to the Orange-tailed mining bee and other early bees, this unnamed apple variety (which Karin and I rescued from the bargain area of a local garden centre) has gone on to produce a heavy crop of eating apples (see below). There’s considerable interest in the role of wild bees such as these as pollinators of fruit in commercial orchards, not just in Europe but in the USA too, where other Andrena spp. also pollinate apples.
The epithet “Mining bees” refers to the fact that these solitary species of the genus Andrena usually make their nests in soil, excavating deep tunnels in which to construct individual cells. It’s another generalist, taking pollen and nectar from a wide variety of garden and wild flowers. Dandelions are particularly important early in the year – so don’t over-manage your lawn and allow some to flower!