True to its name, spring beauty mining bee (Andrena erigeniae) specializes in collecting pollen from the spring ephemeral wildflower spring beauty (Claytonia). Look for distinctive bright-pink Claytonia pollen on the female’s hind legs. This often-abundant species occupies deciduous forests, but also suburban backyards and semi-urban settings when its host plant is present.
A. erigeniae is active from early April through May over much of its range, but may appear as early as late March in more southern areas. Always well-timed with the flowering of Claytonia. One generation is produced per year.
Throughout northeast, with core range in mid-Atlantic states. Less common in disturbed habitats throughout New England.
Size < honey bee
Females: black integument with slight metallic tint; facial foveae with short, fuzzy, pale brownish hair (“tomentum”); sparse, long, white hairs on scutum; frequently carrying pink Claytonia pollen on rear legs
Males: much like female, but without facial foveae and with white “mustache”, like many male Andrena
- Cranesbill mining bee (Andrena distans) is similar and belongs to the same subgenus (Ptilandrena), but is a specialist of cranesbill (aka wild geranium; Geranium maculatum) and is not expected on Claytonia.
Females excavate their underground nests in sparsely-vegetated areas on the forest floor, often underneath fallen leaves. Tumuli may be small or nearly nonexistent. Nests often occur in aggregations.
Spring beauty (Claytonia virginica and C. carolinana).
Larvae of the anthomyiid fly Leucophora obtusa have been found consuming provisions in nest cells of A. erigeniae.
Davis, L. R., and LaBerge, W.E. 1975. The nest biology of the bee Andrena (Ptilandrena) erigeniae Robertson (Hymenoptera: Andrenidae). Ill. Nat. Hist. Surv. 95: 1–24.
Page last updated:
January 17, 2023