• Name: Cliff mining bee | Andrena thoracica
  • Size: 13-16mm (females generally larger than males)
  • Life span: 6-8 weeks  
  • Diet: Nectar and Pollen
  • Reproduction: The Cliff mining bee is a solitary bee, meaning they do not work together and live and feed alone.  They nest in burrows, where the female will lay around 5 eggs
  • When to see: Spring and Summer (March to August - sometimes as early as February)
  • Where to see: Is locally common in coastal localities in southern Britain, but is also known from a number of inland sites, often on heathy soils, where it rarely attains the abundance of some of its coastal locations.  The Cliff mining bee can be found around the coast i.e. Giants Castle, St Mary's | Toll's Island | Shipman Head Down, Bryher in Scilly.   
  • Conservation status: Common
  • Population Trend: Not regarded as scarce or threatened in the UK
  • Threats:  Loss of habitat, climate change (changes in weather patterns, changing temperatures),  
  • Fun Fact: The entrance to the Cliff mining bees burrow is often marked by a small mound of excavated soil; like a mini-molehill

Description: Cliff mining bees are slightly larger than a Honey bee and are fairly distinguishable, especially for a solitary bee, with a deep foxy-reddish thorax and a shiny black abdomen that appears to be hairless; its head and legs are also entirely black. 

They have short tongues which limits the sort of flowers they can visit to gather pollen and they can be important pollinators of such flowers whereas Bumblebees have long tongues and specialise in tubular flowers.  

Consequently, Cliff mining bees can often be found here in Scilly feeding on umbels (plants with umbrella type heads like Sea carrot, Alexander, Hemlock).

There are two generations; the spring generation males emerge in Feb and females linger into May. the summer generation emerges late June until late August.

Want to know more?  Check out the Bumblebee Conservation Trust Website or why not take part in the BeeWalk Survey?

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Cliff mining bee image from Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust archive