Colletes inaequalis congregation area

This is a large congregation of Colletes inaequalis, commonly known as the “Mining Bee.” This natural phenomenon occurs between March and July. The bee ranges from Nova Scotia, Canada south to Georgia, United States. This bee is known to be polylectic (diverse forage), but can specialize on pollinating apples. Colletes will fly about a half mile to a mile and a half for forage.

To view snapshots and full screen viewing of this Gigapan, see gigapan.org

If you are lucky enough to find a congregation area, it is a sight to see. There can be hundreds to thousands of these small, excavated tunnels present on the ground. The bees are usually flying one to two feet above the ground as they return from foraging. It is important when observing the bees to be careful not to step on them! If you look closely inside the excavated tunnels you may catch a glimpse of the head of a female protruding out from the tunnel, or you may see her back down into the tunnel.


In this video you see the mating behavior of Colletes inaequalis. The female is the larger bee and also excavates the nesting cavity. The males have foraging duties.

Written By: Rob Snyder

Rob Snyder has written 62 post in this blog.

I currently work out of the Butte County Cooperative Extension in Oroville, CA as a Crop Protection Agent. I received my B.S. in biology from Delaware Valley College, PA. There I attained a majority of my entomological knowledge from Dr. Chris Tipping and Dr. Robert Berthold. After graduation, I was an apiary inspector for 2 years at the Department of Agriculture in Pennsylvania. In my third year there, I still inspected some colonies but I mainly focused on The Pennsylvania Native Bee Survey (PANBS) where I pinned, labeled, entered data and identified native bees to genus species. Leo Donavall assisted me in learning the basics on positive Identifications of the native bees. Around the same time I began working on coordinating kit construction and distribution for the APHIS National Honey Bee Survey. I was also fortunate to conduct many of these surveys with fellow co-worker Mike Andree and Nathan Rice of USDA/ARS throughout California. All of these experiences have led me to where I am today, working to assist beekeepers in maintaining genetic diverse colonies resistant to parasites while reducing the use of chemical treatments in colonies. The BIP Diagnostic Lab at the University of MD is in an integral part of this process by generating reports in which we can track change and report to beekeepers vital information in a timely manner which may influence their treatment decisions.

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