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25 May 2022

Kildare's Wildlife Watch: Signs of spring from the Ashy Mining Bee

With the Irish Peatland Conservation Council

Kildare's Wildlife Watch: Signs of spring from the Ashy Mining Bee

The ashy mining bee. Picture: P Farrell

It seems like we have been waiting for such a long time for the weather to improve this spring. But although the evenings are still cold, and rain and wind is commonplace, our natural environment is signalling to us that the finer weather is coming soon.

These signals are known as the ‘Spring Wave’ with many of our local wildlife species indicating its beginning.

The trees of blackthorn will produce their flowers, indeed I witnessed the first white blooms along a roadside this week.

Frogs are gathering in our garden and park ponds as they begin to lay their spawn and bumblebees and butterflies begin to take advantage of the early sources of nectar provided by dandelions, buttercups, gorse and fruit trees in our communities.

One species to watch for this week is the Ashy Mining Bee. The Ashy Mining Bee is one of 77 different species of solitary bee in Ireland. This bee is particularly easy to identify as it has two black and grey bands on the thorax (the part of an invertebrate that supports the legs and wings).

The female is larger than the male and is distinguished by having white hairs covering her face and having a glossy black abdomen (the body part of an invertebrate that holds the reproductive organs), which can appear bluish on bright days.

As their name suggests, the female bee builds its nest by burrowing into bare soil in open sunny locations in woodlands, gardens, parks and coastal areas.

Here the female will rear the young, but also take shelter at night and in times of rain.

Although there is no door to close, it is believed that, to protect the nest, the female will cover the entrance with the bare soil when sheltering inside.

I hope the weather is bright for you this week so you get an opportunity to explore your local environment and indeed watch for the Ashy Mining Bee.

Don’t forget if you come across a wildlife species that you would like assistance identifying I would be happy to help. Contact me at bogs@ipcc.ie.

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