I switched my work hours to four days a week, to do the healthy thing as a screen-addicted forty-something: go touch grass. I was to exit the house, hike, reach that impossible “10k daily steps” target, maybe play Pokemon Go… You know. Exercise.

That plan was thwarted by bees.

I walked a whole 22 steps this Wednesday. Got out of my car, stepped onto a dirt trail between fields and train tracks, and immediately sat down to look at bees until sunset. Right where the trail started.

Can you blame me, though? Look at this face.

Macro photograph of a mining bee looking out the opening of a burrow in the dirt

The grey-backed mining bee, Andrena vaga

I am not an expert, and you might want to fact-check with entomologists.

The grey-backed mining bees - a species of solitary bee - live in Europe (and other places) and feed primarily on willow pollen.

They are black and shiny, with a fluffy thorax covered in grey hair. The males have distinctive white “beards”, but I did not get good pictures of males. I think this is one, though:

Side view of a bee

The females burrow into the ground to nest. While the nests are individual, many bees might nest in the same area, which looks like this:

Several bees peeking out of their nests

The digging

I filmed it.

Note: this is not the “brand new tunnel” process. This lazy little one was reopening an existing nest. I saw another bee dig a new tunnel and a lot more effort, time and spinning was involved.

Extra pics

Front view of bee Side view of bees