Andrenidae Bee Family – A Factual Guide

Andrena tibialis from the Andrenidae Bee Family

The Andrenidae bee family consists of bees that are better known as solitary mining bees. This remarkable group of insects live in diverse habitats across the globe.

Andrenids are characterized by a unique anatomical feature: two sulci, or furrows, that extend from the antennal sockets to the clypeus, the area just above the mouthparts.

Unlike social bees such as honeybees, Andrenidae bees are primarily solitary insects. Each female bee excavates her nest, creating tunnels and chambers where she lays eggs and provisions them with food.

The Andrenidae family has a wide distribution, spanning nearly every continent except for Antarctica and Australia.

This bee family is broken down into three main subfamilies, each showcasing unique traits, and characteristics that set them apart.

DistributionEvery continent except Antarctica and Australia
Number of species     Almost 1600
SubfamiliesAndreninae, Panurginae, Oxaeinae

Did you know? We summarize all seven bee families here.


1. Andreninae

The Andreninae subfamily boasts six genera, with one representing 99 percent of all species within the subfamily. These bees are primarily found in the Northern Hemisphere but have also made their homes in tropical Asia, Africa, and South America.

Closeup image of an Andrena variabilis bee
Andrena variabilis.

Notable genera

Andrena: with over 1500 species, this genus is one of the biggest in the animal kingdom. They are all ground-nesting solitary bees, preferring sandy soil to create nests in. Their appearance is highly diverse.

Megandrena: Found in Arizona and California, this genera consists of two species that enjoy arid landscapes. The Megandrena mentzeliae remain nested in the ground, sometimes for years, until sufficient rainfall before emerging. 

Euherbstia: a genus with one species, the Euherbstia excellens. It is a large bee with metallic blue and orange markings. Found in Central Chile, these bees are easy to recognize. 

Orphana: made up of two species found in Central Chile, no one has ever found these bees nesting.

2. Panurginae

The Panurginae subfamily is diverse, accounting for over 30 genera and more than 1430 species. This variety demonstrates the adaptive capacity and ecological significance of these bees.

Macro photograph of a Panurgus banksianus bee on a purple flower
Panurgus banksianus.

Notable genera

Nolanomelissa: believed to be over 55 million years old, this bee species is only found in the Atacama Desert in Chile.

Arhysosage: a genus of 8 species that are pale or light brown. Males have large, bent mandibles.

Calliopsis: made up of 80 species found in Central and North America. They range from small, dark bees with minimal hair to medium-sized insects with long hair.

Psaenthyia: comprising over 70 species, they often have vibrant red, orange, and yellow markings. Some males have huge heads with large mandibles and facial horns.

Camptopoeum: a genus found in semi-arid habitats, these bees look like wasps with yellow bands. Some species are almost entirely black. 

Macrotera: comprises 31 species found in a region from southern Mexico up to western North America. The Mcrotera portalis has regular-sized drones that can fly, while large flightless males stay in the nest, fighting with others for mating rights.

Perdita: Located in Central and North America, the genus has around 640 species. The Perdita minima measure 1/16″ in length, making it the smallest bee in the world.

Panurgus: found in northern Africa and Europe. The most common subgenera is Panurgus, which has 35 species that are all black without any markings.  

Melitturga: a genus that’s large, hairy, and flies extremely fast. They rely on sight more than smell, thanks to their relatively short antennae.

Zoomed in image of a Melitturga clavicornis collecting pollen on a bloom
Melitturga clavicornis.

3. Oxaeinae

The Oxaeinae is a relatively small subfamily with only four genera and 22 species. While they may be fewer in number, these bees play a vital role in the ecosystems of Central and South America and the United States.

Notable genera

Protoxaea: a small genus of three species found in Mexico and the southwestern United States. They are large bees with long, narrow wings.

Oxaea: comprising ten species, these sizeable bees have huge eyes and are known to fly with speed. While the females have a simple color scheme, the males have eye-catching metallic green bands. 

Commonly asked questions

What is the Andrenidae family of bees?

The Andrenidae family, often called mining bees, is a large family of bees that consists of over 1300 species. These bees are known to burrow into the ground to create their nests, hence their nickname.

What do Andrenidae bees eat?

Andrenidae bees feed on nectar and pollen from various plants like other bees. Some species are generalists, feeding on many different types of plants, while others are specialists, feeding on only a few types of plants.

Are Andrenidae bees dangerous?

Andrenidae bees are not typically dangerous to humans. While females have a stinger, they are docile and unlikely to sting unless directly threatened or handled.

How can I attract Andrenidae bees to my garden?

Planting various native flowering plants can attract Andrenidae bees to your garden. Providing bare, undisturbed soil patches can also encourage them to nest there.

What is the lifecycle of an Andrenidae bee?

The lifecycle of an Andrenidae bee starts when a female lays her eggs in her burrow. Once the larvae hatch, they feed on a supply of pollen and nectar that the mother has provided. They overwinter in their burrow, pupate, and emerge as adults the following spring.

Are Andrenidae bees endangered?

While some species of Andrenidae bees are quite common and not currently at risk, others are considered threatened or endangered due to habitat loss, pesticide exposure, and other environmental pressures.

Fun facts

  • Unlike honeybees in large colonies, Andrenidae bees are typically solitary insects. Each female digs a burrow and raises her young rather than living in a communal hive.
  • Many species of Andrenidae bees are among the first bees to emerge in the spring. This has led to them being nicknamed “spring bees.”
  • The Andrenidae family is also known as the “mining bee” because they dig nests in the ground. The tunnels can be up to a meter long.
  • Some species of Andrenidae bees are highly specialized and will only collect pollen from a single type of plant.
  • The larvae of Andrenidae bees overwinter in their burrows, pupating in the spring to emerge as adults. This helps them survive harsh winter conditions.
  • Some species in the Andrenidae family have long tongues, which allow them to feed on flowers with long corollas.
  • Some Andrenidae bees exhibit Batesian mimicry, where they mimic the appearance of more dangerous insects (like wasps) to avoid predation.

Suggested reading

Wood, T. J., & Monfared, A. (2022). A revision of the Andrena (Hymenoptera: Andrenidae) fauna of Iran, with the description of 16 new species. European Journal of Taxonomy, 843(1), 1-136. Read research>

Bryan N. Danforth, Female Foraging and Intranest Behavior of a Communal Bee, Perdita portalis (Hymenoptera: Andrenidae), Annals of the Entomological Society of America, Volume 84, Issue 5, 1 September 1991, Pages 537–548. Read research>

McLaughlin, G., Gueuning, M., Genoud, D., Frey, J.E. & Praz, C. (2023) Why are there so many species of mining bees (Hymenoptera, Andrenidae)? The possible roles of phenology and Wolbachia incompatibility in maintaining species boundaries in the Andrena proxima-complex. Systematic Entomology, 48( 1), 127– 141. Read research>

Similar Posts