Digger Bees

I was doing work today related to the master plan alignment of a pedestrian trail for the Poplar Run subdivision and Bel Pre Creek and Northwest Branch Park.   As I was walking along a stream and meadow in Layhill, Montgomery County, Maryland, I heard the buzz of bees.


As I got closer to a fallen tree, the uprooted fan of the stumpage was alive with bee activity.  The vertical wall of soil and roots was the home of a colony of digger bees (Anthophora), and most likely Anthophora abrupta.  This bee is also known as the “chimney” bee.


This species look like bumble bees but a tad smaller.  As I watched the bees fly around the root fan, I noticed that they were fast and nimble.


Digger bees are solitary, but will form a colony for the purpose of nest building.  They are considered top-flight native pollinators and are harmless to humans.  I was able to observe their operations up close and personal, while the bees worked around me.


If you look close at this photo you will see a digger bee flying into its nest hole opening (lower left).  All you can see is the bee’s furry black rear-end and part of the buff-colored, furry mid-section.


Again, in this photo you can see a bee entering its nest hole opening.  The fast-moving bee is out-of-focus.  The entrance to the hole is concealed by a down-slanted chimney made of mud.  The inside of chimney and brood cell tunnel are thinly lined with smooth mud.  Each finished cell contains a mixture of honey, pollen, and one egg.  The larvae will feed and pupate in the cell, emerging as an adult in late spring.

The following web-site is the best resource that I could find on the internet regarding digger bees and digger bee behavior.  http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/misc/bees/anthophora_abrupta.htm