We’re starting off National Pollinator Week with one of our fuzzy friends, the miner bee, also known as a chimney bee. Miner bees include many species that are part of the family Andrenidae and they are often mistaken for bumble bees. These small-to-medium-sized, fuzzy bees are widespread and–good news– typically do not sting humans. Miner bees are often solitary bees, meaning they don’t belong to a hive, and they like to nest in bare ground. They are some of the first bees to emerge in the spring.
Miner bees don’t carry little pick axes, but they are very good at digging. Miner bees especially enjoy building their homes in well-drained soil, but they have also been observed nesting between stones or logs of old buildings, cabins, and barns. The nests, which look like a combination of a tunnel and a chimney, are often clustered together. A female miner bee usually provides only for her own nest, although they may nest in the same area. They can nest in the same location for years! To encourage miner bees, leave some bare ground in your yard.
It’s easy to think about the European Honey Bee when it comes to pollination, but solitary bees like the miner bee are often overlooked as very effective pollinators. Both male and female miner bees forage for their own nectar. Some species are considered forage-plant generalists, while others are specialists. A forage-plant generalist will forage from and pollinate a wide variety of wildflowers, and maybe even your vegetable and fruit plants! Specialists need specific types of flowers. According to the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers and Native Plants, miner bees prefer Ceanothus and Phacelia.