Lasioglossum calceatum, the Slender Mining Bee.. and Rivers of Flowers from Buglife.

This lovely Lasioglossum bee is in the tribe Halictiniae which is a huge family of bees.

These are the old bees, the ancient bees whose descendants were flying around 220 million years ago. I have painted a couple of them, including my first live model, the accommodating Agapostemon splendens which I wrote about here “The Stripy Halicitd Sweat Bee.”

Looking at the UK Lasioglossum bees you can see the family resemblance, but it seems that in the UK we don’t have quite such colourful varieties.
In looking for information about these bees I came across Jeremy Earley’s really excellent site Nature Conservation Imaging.

The site is particularly fascinating because he breaks it down into different UK habitats and what you might find there.
I spent hours reading through the excellent notes, which are illustrated with his wonderful photographs. It is a really informative site on solitary bees so I contacted him for a little help re the species and their favourite flowers.

He kindly sent me back a list of foraging plants taken from David Baldock’s “Bees of Surrey” which was published two years ago. ‘most often found at ragwort. Other flowers used include thistles, buttercups, common fleabane, lesser burdock, sheep’s-bit, red campion, chickweed and rough hawkbit.’
I think in trying to identify bees it really helps to know where you might find them!  I had earmarked Rough Hawkbit for this bee some time ago but felt the humble Dandelion really needed a place in the exhibition especially as it is a star amongst bee flowers.

It is in the same huge Asteraceae family of composites, Hawkweeds, Cat’s Ears, and the Sow Thistles etc, which incidentally seems to be the only thing thriving here at the moment.

Rivers of Flowers in every County.  B LINES from Buglife… I had a blissful morning with the radio and some pencils. Tweet deck was off. Photoshop, Illustrator and their accomplices were dormant. I was listening to the news and heard, one of the charities who will be supporting the exhibition, calling for the UK to be crossed with flower filled corridors for bees. What a lovely idea and beautiful image.

B-lines would be rivers of flowers in every county, one going east west and the other north south. They would be carefully planned to avoid woods, lakes and other unsuitable habitats, but would connect people to wildlife sites to enable better appreciation of British wildlife.”

6 spot burnet (c) Andrew Whitehouse

This photo accompanies the article, the beautiful Six-spot burnet moths (Zygaena filipendulae)© Andrew Whitehouse, on Vipers Bugloss I think.

They want the government to step in but I was thinking, if everyone sowed just one packet of wildflower seeds it would make a real difference and I am all for guerilla planting.. think of all those arterial roads, their verges and roundabouts.
It’s an interesting article.
Do read more, Call For More Wildflowers.

I will be donating a small watercolour to them for their annual charity auction next month which I will (hope to) be painting in the next few days and will put on the blog.

The Painting.

I think a lot about how to make an image, where I place things and what I want to say. I am struck by the delicacy of these little bees and was wondering how the world looks from their perspective.

A low leaf to us is high to them. So I deliberately kept the space below him clear and uncluttered just to give a sense of the airiness and lightness. It is, after all, irrelevant how far the drop is to the ground if you can fly!  These little things make me feel like some lumpen, clumsy Gulliver. Jainism is looking more attractive by the day!

I suppose the rot set in when Ant came to stay. Dear Ant! I do miss him. Paper Wasps are just not the same, far too serious. No cavorting around the drawing board for them, just baleful glaring.

sketches sm

Grubby sketches but useful to me, they just help me sort out ideas quickly. Then the final picture. Yes, I did include the dandelion flower, but not quite all :).


Lasioglossum calcaetum with Dandelion

Lasioglossum cal

Watercolour and Graphite on  Arches HP approx 8”x8” ****

And a big thank you to all, for your kind comments and emails, re my battles with the hard grey stuff.
Lord knows, I have troubles enough with the soft grey stuff.
Some degree of calm returned today and it does help to know I am not the only one, but serene gliding is still some way off..

The Tawny Mining Bee: Andrena fulva

Small volcanoes erupting in your lawn in spring are a sure sign that you have some mining bees hard at work, and how very cute they are too.. and numerous.

I must admit my heart sank when I read there are over 1,300 species in the world…which one to choose?

I decided on a  European one and one from the USA. From Europe this is Andrena fulva  the winsome little Tawny Mining Bee, extremely pretty in two tone russet and ginger, looking like a little bottle brush.

This is the female. the male is not quite so colourful.
The bee world has some very big colourful girls, rather the opposite to the bird world! Photo of the male Andrena fulva by J C Shou, from great photo site Biopix here

andrena fulva male

Mining Bees or Digger Bees are solitary  and “IBRA” the International Bee Research Association has a  good PDF about solitary bees here.

This is what they say about Andrena fulva

The adults over winter in the ground and emerge in the spring. The females dig a tunnel into the ground, hence the need for easily workable soil, where the earth is bare or the grass is short. The tunnels are about 9mm in diameter and descend to a depth of 20 to 40 cm.
At the end of the tunnel the bee will construct an oval cell and provision it with pollen and nectar. An egg is laid in
the cell, which is then sealed up. She then goes on to construct other branches to her tunnel and repeats the process laying about 5 eggs in her lifetime.
On cold days bees need to warm up before they can fly and so females are often seen in the morning sunbathing by tunnel entrances. “

Illustration from “How stuff works”  here.

And below, a lovely photo from Dick at of his little tawny mining bee peeping out of her burrow.. he says;

“Once in their nest they stay quite still just below the opening until you get near and they shoot back down to the bottom of the nest, out of sight”

But, don’t worry about your pristine lawns.. just live with it for a few weeks and enjoy the bees. David Kendall is an Entomologist and has these kindly word for this pretty and useful bee,

“The Tawny Mining Bee (Andrena fulva) is one of several species, commonly seen around gardens in early spring, which dig nest burrows in lawns and similar places.
This bee is about the same size as a honeybee, but covered with fairly dense golden hairs.
The female bee makes a small volcano-like mound with the soil excavated from the nest.

There may be many nests close together, giving the impression of communal life, but each female is actually working alone. Nesting activity lasts only a short time (perhaps 2-3 weeks), after which the small mounds of earth around each nest entrance soon disappear, with no permanent damage to the lawn.

Take care not to confuse solitary bee nest mounds with the mounds of earth caused by the nesting activity of ant colonies. Solitary bee mounds have a single large entrance hole in the middle, and by watching for a short while on a warm sunny day, you will see the bees coming and going to collect pollen.
If left alone, these bees will often nest in the same area year after year, and provide an annual service by pollinating your early flowering fruit trees and shrubs (apples, pears, currants and gooseberries) and other garden plants – so helping to ensure good crops later in the year.

from his very nice readable site “Insects and other Arthropods” here


Some preliminary sketches: I feel I should have included a little volcano and a ray of warming sunshine too.

sketch bg      colsk sm


Bee No 8: The Female Tawny Mining Bee, Andrena fulva

andrena col 

Watercolour on Arches HP w/col paper: image 3.5 “