When you hear the words “miner bee” what do you imagine?
Do you see a picture of a bee with a mining hat on its head?
That might be a good way for you to remember the miner bee, and the kind of habitat it likes to live in. You see, miner bees like to make their homes in the ground. But not just any ground. It can’t be too wet, or too soggy. It can’t be too cold or too hot.What miner bees really like is un-mulched sandy soil that is in a bare, sunny location, but that’s still close to shrubs.
That makes it possible for them to burrow into the ground to make their homes, to stay warm and cozy, and get protection from the elements when it’s too hot or too wet.
Female miner bees will make their burrow about eight inches down into the ground, and then will make small cells leading off the the main entrance whole. In each cell, the female bee will put a small pollen ball, mixed with nectar, and lay an egg upon it. Then she will seal off the chamber with a mud wall, and goes on to do it again. And again and again. After about eight weeks, she will die, but her babies will be born, eat the pollen and nectar, and grow up a bit. Then they will spin a cocoon and pupate, and emerge the next year, as adults.
While miner bees are solitary bees (like mason bees and leafcutter bees), they also like to live in a community of sorts. They like to keep their family closeby. So you will often find small groups of miner bees living close together.
There are more than 1300 species of miner bees, and they live almost everywhere in the world (except South America and Oceania).
The female miner bee is typically about 8 – 17 mm in length (the males are smaller), often brown/black and have whitish abdominal hair bands. Some species have metallic blue or green coloring.
Typically, miner bees emerge when temperatures outside range between 20 and 30 degrees Celcius. That means that they come out in late spring and early summer, when spring blossoming fruit like apples and some berries are out.
Interestingly enough, miner bees use the same technique as bumblebees to get the pollen they need from these plants. They are able to dislocate their wings, and use “buzz power” to vibrate the stems and flowers to make the pollen drop on them. That’s what you call using your talents!
Like many solitary bees, miner bees don’t make honey, nor are they likely to sting. Some sources claim, however, that if they are roughly handled, they may bite. Always remember to respect the bees, let them have their space, and you can all live together happily.
So if, one day when you’re walking and you see small holes in the hard dirt, stay still and quiet and watch from a distance of about 5-6 feet. I bet you’ll have found a site where miner bees live.