Northern Mining Bee

Fast Facts

Latin name: Andrena ruficrus

Notable feature: A small mining bee. Males appear to have a white moustache and females a distinct orange pollen brush.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

Where in the UK: Nationally rare, a highly localized, northern based species with scattered records from Yorkshire to Northern Scotland including Islay and recently, South Uist. In North East England bare river banks, set back from the river, and old quarries and other brownfield sites are often used.

Northern (Sallow) Mining Bee (Andrena ruficrus) © S. Falk


The Northern Mining Bee (Andrena ruficrus) is a native, small, solitary, mining bee.

Males are slim with an overall grey appearance due to the long white hairs on the side of the dark body. They also have long white facial hairs which resemble a pale moustache. As with most mining bees, the female is larger with a wider abdomen. This species also has distinctive bright orange pollen collecting hairs on her back legs.

The male Northern Mining Bees emerge first (mid February – late March), before females, with perhaps 10-30 seen patrolling a small nesting area on sunny days before a small number of females emerge.

After mating, nesting occurs, singly or in relatively small nesting aggregations in bare, mineral soils; sometimes flat compact areas around path are used, more often sloped, bare south facing banks. As with most mining bees, the Northern Mining Bee takes a year to pass through a complete life cycle, though adults tend to live for only a few weeks.

    • Size: Males have a wing length of 6-7mm, females nearer 8mm
    • Life span:  Annual life cycle; adults are on the wing between April-late May. In northern England they have been recorded from early February
    • Diet: Females collect pollen from willow, Dandelion, coltsfoot and a variety of other plants are used for nectar by males and females.
    • Reproduction: Nesting occurs singly or in relatively small nesting aggregations in bare, mineral soils. Sometimes flat compact areas around paths are used, more often sloped, bare south facing banks.
    • When to see:  March to April in Northern England or April to May in Scotland.
    • Population Trend:  Unknown as this species is sporadically recorded in some areas and believed to be under recorded, due in part to its early emergence time.
    • Threats: Loss of habitat, as a result of agricultural intensification, urbanisation and scrub encroachment; in particular brownfield sites being developed
    • Fun Fact:  So many species of bee are found only in the south of England, so northerners are very proud of this bee with its scattered northern distribution.

How you can help: 

Buglife is working to increase awareness of invertebrates and the Northern Mining Bee through specific projects, including B-Lines and campaigns such as “Ardeer Peninsula – Scotland’s bee haven” but we need your help!

Buglife B-Lines are an imaginative and beautiful solution to the problem of the loss of flowers and pollinators. B-Lines are a series of ‘insect pathways’ running through our countryside and towns, along which we are restoring and creating a series of wildflower-rich habitat stepping stones. Linking existing wildlife areas together, creating a network, like a railway, that will weave across the UK landscape.  More information about B-Lines and how you can help pollinators can be found on our B-Lines & Pollinator Projects pages.

Join a recording scheme and log your finds – send any records/sightings to BWARS or download the iRecord app and get recording!

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