There are 79 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 below 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.

Click on the scientific name of each species below to see maps and more information

 

Andrena cineraria (Grey or 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 15th March (2017).
  • 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. New nest entrances will be surrounded by a little 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:
  • Andrena 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 (Orange-tailed Mining Bee)

Andrena-haemorrhoa-J.Breen_-150x150Andrena-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 on it 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
  • BWARS information on Andrena haemorrhoa

 

Andrena clarkella (Clarke’s Mining Bee)

   

Key identification features:
  • Take care to identify this one correctly – make sure to match all the features below
  • The females have ginger or brown hairs on the thorax, black hairs on the abdomen, dark face hairs, and the hind leg and pollen brush are orange.
  • Large solitary species (11-15mm)
  • Spring flight period (March-June)
  • Widespread but probaly under-recorded
  • Feeds almost exclusively on Willow. Found in habitats where Willow is present
  • BWARS information on Andrena clarkella

 

Anthidium manicatum (Wool-carder Bee)

  

Key identification features:
  • First sighted in County Wexford in 2015. It has since been recorded more widely across the south-east of Ireland
  • Both males and females have a pattern of yellow markings down the sides of the abdomen, head and legs
  • Very large solitary species (11-17mm)
  • The female collects pollen on hairs on the underside of the abdomen – favouring those that have tubular flowers (Mint, Pea, Toadflax families)
  • Flies from June to early August
  • Males will aggressively defend their territory and, unusually for bees, are considerably larger than the females
  • Females shave hairs off plant stems (such as Yarrow or Great Mullein) to use in the construction of brood cells. Hairs are brought to the nest site in a ball and teased out with the mandibles, earning it the common name of  ‘Wool-carder Bee’.
  • Found in various flower-rich habitats, including parks and gardens.
  • BWARS information on Anthidium manicatum

 

Anthophora plumipes (Hairy-footed Flower Bee)

       

Key identification features:
  • First spotted in Dublin City on the 27th March 2022
  • If you spot this bee, please send a photograph for validation so that we can track it’s expansion in Ireland in coming years
  • Large bumblebee-sized species
  • The female resembles a small, black bumblebee with orange-red hairs on the hind leg. 
  • The male has extensive yellow markings on its face and a very long fringe of hairs along the lower half of it’s middle leg.
  • Often one of the first bees to emerge from hibernation – found from early March to late May.
  • Often nests in the soft mortar in old walls. Occasionally it will nest on bare clay on the ground.
  • Will visit a range of flowers but particularly likes Lungwort
  • Common and widespread in much of England and Wales, especially in towns, cities and villages.
  • BWARS information on Anthophora plumipes

 

Halictus rubicundus (Orange-legged Furrow Bee)

  

Key identification features:
  • Take care to identify this one correctly – make sure to match all the features below
  • The females have ginger/brown hairs on thorax, obvious white hair bands on the abdomen, and orange hind legs (both leg and hairs).
  • Medium sized solitary species (9-12mm)
  • Found from March September
  • Common and found in a wide range of habitats, including parks and gardens.
  • Can nest in large aggregations
  • BWARS information on Halictus rubicundus

 

Colletes hederae (Ivy Bee)

Ivy bee_Steven Falk

 

 

 

 

 

Key identification features:
  • First spotted at the Raven Nature Reserve in Wexford in October 2021
  • If you spot this bee, please send a photograph for validation so that we can track it’s expansion in Ireland in coming years
  • Was recorded as new to Britain in 2001. Has since spread across much of southern England and into south Wales, where it is now extremely plentiful in some coastal localities.
  • Very late flight period. It is the last solitary bee to emerge each year and is on the wing from early September until early November.
  • Honeybee sized but with clear pale bands on the abdomen
  • Look for the bee on large stands of flowering Ivy
  • BWARS information on Colletes hederae

 

Colletes succinctus (Heather 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.

 

Nomada goodeniana (Gooden’s Nomad Bee)

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 (Marsham’s Nomad Bee)

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
  • BWARS information on Nomada marshamella

 

Osmia aurulenta (Gold-fringed Mason Bee)

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
  • Almost exclusively restricted to sand dunes and only occurs down the east and south east coasts. Known from one inland site in Co Tipperay
  • Nests in empty snail shells
  • BWARS information on Osmia aurulenta

 

Osmia bicornis (Red Mason Bee)

   

Key identification features:
  • Until recently this species was known as Osmia rufa
  • Large sized solitary species (10-14mm)
  • Flies from April-June
  • Chunky in appearance. Females have brownish hairs on thorax and reddish hairs on abdomen. They also have two small black horns projecting outwards from the face
  • First recorded from Ireland in 2003. Originally recorded from cities (Belfast, Dublin and Cork) and appears to be expanding from there. Likely to be a deliberate introduction as it is known to be an excellent pollinator of fruits
  • Nests in existing cavities and can reach high densities – burrows in soil, dead wood, the space beneath roof tiles, holes in soft or crumbling mortar joints
  • In Britain it is common in gardens and parks in large cities
  • BWARS information on Osmia bicornis

 

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. Was not spotted again until 2021 when it appeared on a few sites in counties Cork and Dublin. It started over-wintering in Britain in 2007.

 

Coelioxys inermis and Coelioxys elongata (Sharp-tailed Bees)

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.

 

Download a pdf with images of 10 garden solitary bee species: Solitary bee garden bucket list