Today I visited Lady Windsor Colliery in Ynysybwl in search of a potentially interesting bee spotted by local resident (and friend) Steven Murray. Looking at Steven’s pictures of a nesting female, it appeared to resemble the Cat’s-ear Mining Bee (Andrena humilis) – a scarce species listed as Notable B in Falk (1991) (now known as Near Threatened).
Andrena humilis is widespread but very localised in southern and central Britain north to Cumbria. It is found in a variety of habitats but is mostly found in heathland and coastal districts. Pollen is obtained entirely from yellow hawkish composites such as Cat’s-ear, Mouse-ear Hawkweed and hawk’s-beards. Adults fly from May to July and nesting usually occurs along footpaths. Further information is available on the BWARS website.
Following a grid reference given to me by Steven, I started my search for the nests. Thankfully, the nests were relatively east to find, situated on a footpath beneath a rather distinctive oak tree. I noted what looked like 6 nests, although after waiting for almost an hour, I could see no sign of activity. I decided to try again later.
On my return an hour or so later, I spotted a female pocking her head out of her nest. After patiently sitting beside the nest entrance, I watched her emerge and head off foraging (see sequence below).
Female Andrena humilis emerging from her nest
Around 5-10 minutes, she returned with pollen-loaded legs. Catching her in a net, I had a closer look and confirmed the bee to be Andrena humilis.
I also observed several males flying around a female foraging on a yellow composite well away from the nesting area (see below), suggesting further nests may be present elsewhere on the site.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Steven Murray on his excellent find. This is another exciting discovery for the coal tips of south Wales, and represents the second coal tip in Rhondda Cynon Taf supporting this scarce species.
Colliery Spoil Biodiversity Initiative