There’s a fairly bare, hard-packed stretch of dry soil that serves as a path up the hill in my yard, where I often see little brown bees zooming back and forth close to the ground. This year I finally slowed down enough to get some pictures. And I found a whole community of bees.
Mostly they are a mix of Early Miner Bees (Andrena dunningi) and sweat bees (Halictus rubicundus). Both are solitary bees, which means the females work alone. They dig tunnels, provision them with lumps of pollen and nectar, and lay a single egg on each provision. The ones zooming back and forth are probably the males, patrolling hopefully for females to pounce on. The miner bees A. dunningi are some of the most common bees of early spring, and people often find them digging clusters of holes in the barer patches of their lawn. The sweat bees H. rubicundus are socially polymorphic, which means sometimes they are solitary and sometimes they are social, which puts them in an interesting transition for people to study.
Supposedly these bees like fruit trees and blueberries, but when I looked for them on flowers, I found tiny little wasp bees (Nomada) zipping around the dandelions nearby. (And yes, just as you might suspect, I am tolerating the dandelions for the sake of the bees.) These are cuckoo bees that lay their eggs on other bees’ provisions. In fact, just about every kind of solitary bee has a cuckoo bee to bedevil them. And these evil little gals freeload on my miner bees. The nerve!