Mining Bees

According to the Entomology and Nematology Department at the University of Florida IFAS/Extension, these insects, also known as the chimney bee or miner bee, is a gregarious, yet solitary, ground-nesting bee. The adult female digs a tunnel, often in clay, using the excavated earth to sculpt a chimney-like turret representing a single nest. Neighboring nests are clustered like a small village, but Mining Bees are considered solitary bees because they have no overlap of generations and each female cares only for her own nest and future offspring.

Mining Bee
Mining Bee

These bees are not aggressive or even defensive of their nests, and do not typically sting. When roughly handled they can defend themselves by biting, but are otherwise docile and should not be considered a threat. In fact, they are beneficial pollinators and have been recorded on a variety of flowers. Mining Bees are not timid around humans, so the interested observer can watch as the turrets multiply and the adult bees stock their burrows with pollen and nectar.

Superficially, adult Mining Bees look like small, fast bumble bees. The head, legs and abdomen are lightly covered in brown-black hairs while the thorax is covered in dense, pale yellow-orange hairs. The wings are nearly transparent to slightly cloudy with brown-black veins.

Adult Mining Bees begin emerging from early April to late June, depending on region and climate. The males emerge first, followed by the females about five days later.

Mating takes place on a flower, and while the females have been observed to mate only once, the males seem to mate with multiple females. After mating, the female looks for a suitable nest site. Adult females who emerge early in the spring fly in a zigzag motion inspecting cracks and holes in the substrate and then choose a spot to begin excavating a nest. Adult females who emerge later in the spring tend to nest in a clumped distribution around the earlier emerging adult females’ nests.

Here’s what Digger or Mining Bees look like

After digging their burrows, Mining Bee females line the walls and cells with a glandular secretion excreted from their Dufour’s gland (a gland near the base of the abdomen associated with egg-laying). It begins as a clear liquid and then turns into a solid plate with wax-like consistency. This process essentially waterproofs the cell, making it cup-like for the provisioning of the egg.

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