There are 77 different species of solitary bee in Ireland. Identifying solitary bees to species level generally involves taking a specimen and using a stereo-microscope along with a specialist key. However, there are a small number of species that can be identified in the field by sight. If you spot any of these species please submit your record to help us improve our knowledge of their distribution.

Solitary bees that can be identified in the field

 

Andrena cineraria (Ashy mining bee)

A.cineraria-nesting-Harm-Deenan-150x150 Andrena.cineraria.-.lindseyAndrena-cineraria-Andrew-Byrne-150x150

Key identification features:
  • The females are black, and have two distinctive grey hair bands across the thorax (there are no other solitary bees like this in Ireland)
  • Large sized species (13-16mm)
  • It is a spring species and will generally be seen between March- June. The earliest it has been recorded in Ireland is 22nd March (2011).
  • Widespread. It is found in a range of habitats, but in Ireland it often relies on Willow as an early forage source
  • It nests in the ground. The nest entrances will be surrounded by a volcano-like mound of excavated spoil. Nests are often in dense aggregations
  • In the UK, A. cineraria has been increasing in abundance and is common in urban environments (parks, gardens, orchards). This is not yet the case in Ireland.
  • BWARS information on Andrena cineraria

 

Andrena fulva (Tawny mining bee)

Andrena-fulva-now-extinct1-150x150

 

 

 

 

 

Key identification features:

  • A. fulva was last recorded in Kilkenny in 1925, and was assumed extinct in Ireland until it was recorded twice in 2012. It it likely to be spotted with more frequency in the future as it is common in England and Wales, where it occurs in parks and gardens.
  • Females are very distinctive with bright red hairs on the thorax and abdomen.
  • Medium-large sized solitary species (12-14mm).
  • It is a spring species (March – June).
  • It nests in the ground. The nest entrances will be surrounded by a volcano-like mound of excavated spoil.
  • If you think you’ve spotted this species please send a photograph for validation.
  • BWARS information on Andrena fulva

 

Andrena haemorrhoa

Andrena-haemorrhoa-J.Breen_-150x150 Andrena-haemorrhoa-F-Geller-Grimm-150x150

 

 

 

 

 

Key identification features:

  • The females are black, with a ginger thorax, orange hind legs, and distinctive red hairs at the tip of the abdomen (there are other Andrena species that look similar but none with a red tipped abdomen). Note that both the hind leg and the hairs are orange.
  • Medium sized solitary species (11-13mm)
  • It emerges in spring, and can be seen from March – August
  • Common and widespread. It is found in a range of habitat types, including parks and gardens

 

Nomada goodeniana

Nomada-goodeniana-Andrew-Byrne-150x150

 

 

 

 

 

Key identification features:
  • Females with orange/brown legs and antennae.
  • Can have two yellow spots on the thorax.
  • In females the abdomen is black and yellow only. The only similar sized black and yellow species is N. marshamella. In N. goodeniana the second yellow band is entire (not broken in the centre) where as in N. marshamella it is broken.
  • Medium sized solitary species (9-13mm)
  • Early species April – June
  • Not commonly recorded, so habitat associations in Ireland unclear.
  • It is a cuckoo species (cleptoparasite) and parasites the nests of species like Andrena nigroaenea, A. cineraria
  • BWARS information on Nomada goodeniana

 

Nomada marshamella

Nomada marshamella male_Steven Falk

Key identification features:
  • Females with orange/brown legs and antennae.
  • Can have two yellow spots on the thorax.
  • In females the abdomen is black and yellow only. The only similar sized black and yellow species is N. goodeniana. In N. goodeniana the second yellow band is entire (not broken in the centre) where as in N. marshamella it is broken.
  • Medium sized solitary species (9-13mm)
  • It emerges in spring, and can be seen from April – September
  • Common, known from a range of habitats including parks and gardens
  • It is a cuckoo species (cleptoparasite) and parasites the nests of species like Andrena scotica, A. nigroaenea
  • Photo © Josef Dvořák
  • BWARS information on Nomada marshamella

 

Osmia aurulenta

Osmia-aurulenta-300x200-150x150

Osmia aurulenta pinned female_Steven Falk

Key identification features:
  • Females have ginger hairs on the thorax, and ginger/red hair bands on the abdomen which are most obvious towards the tip. The bottom of the abdomen is rounded giving the bee a chunky appearance.
  • Medium sized solitary species (7-12mm)
  • It emerges in spring, and can be seen from April – August
  • Restricted to sand dunes and only occurs down the east and south east coasts.
  • Nests only in empty snail shells
  • Seems to be having a good year in 2011. I’ve spotted lots at both Tramore and the Raven..
  • BWARS information on Osmia aurulenta

 

Xylocopa violacea (Violet carpenter bee)

Xylocopa_kleptolektie

Key identification features:
  • Distinctive entirely black bee with dark wings (not unlike a massive bluebottle fly).
  • Very big species, one of the largest solitary bees in Europe.
  • Recorded in Waterford City in 2007 but hasn’t been seen since. It started over-wintering in Britain in 2007 and is likely to be a new addition to our bee fauna as a result of climate change.

 

Colletes succinctus (Common Colletes bee)

Colletes-succinctus-Gurteenbog22and23rdaug2013_Aine-Fenner-150x150

Key identification features:
  • Females with a ginger thorax and prominent bands of white hair on the abdomen.
  • Medium sized solitary species (10-13mm).
  • Late species, can be seen from June-September.
  • Strongly associated with bog, heath and heathy woodland. Reliant on pollen from heathers (Calluna and Erica).
  • Nests in the ground, often in a south-facing bare or sparsely vegetated bank.
  • Often nests in huge aggregations of hundreds of nests within a small area. Colletes succinctus nesting aggregations will be a hive of activity in sunny days in late summer and are difficult to confuse with anything else.
  • Colletes species have characteristic prominent bands of white hair on the abdomen. The other three Irish species are all restricted to coastal sites.
  • BWARS information on Colletes succinctus.

 

Coelioxys inermis and Coelioxys elongata (Sharp tailed bees)

Coelioxys-inermis-Nigel-Jones-150x150

Key identification features:
  • Females with a very distinctive sharply pointed abdomen.
  • The pointed abdomen means it is unlikely you’ll confuse Coelioxys females with any other species. It is impossible to tell the two species apart in the field. Both are rare but C. elongata is larger (10-15mm) and is the more commonly recorded of the two species. C. inermis is 9-14mm.
  • Late species, can be seen from June-September.
  • Coelioxys is a genus of cuckoo bees that parasitises the nests of Megachile species.
  • Found in a range of habitats, but in Ireland most often recorded from coastal sites with healthy Megachile maritima populations.
  • It is necessary to take a specimen to positively identify to species level. When viewed under a microscope, the abdominal segments have much denser punctuation in C. elongata than in C. inermis. A BWARS visual guide for the identification of British Coelioxys species can be downloaded here.
  • If you spot a Coelioxys species, it is useful to send in a record at the genus level.

 

Solitary bees that can be identified in the field with care

There are a number of other species that can be identified in the field with care. A guide on these species can be downloaded here. It currently contains two species, but I hope to add more throughout the year.

Two more species of solitary bee that can be identified in the field with care (418KB)

Simple guides to solitary bees

There are also four simple guides to solitary bees which can be downloaded here. These provide an introduction to the taxonomic group for beginners.