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  • Dut: Zijdebij
  • Lat: Collectus
  • Eng: Plumed bee (colletid bee)
  • Ger: Seidenbiene
  • Dan: Silkebi
Colletes halophilus, foto fitis, sytske dijksen

Mining bees

The saltmarsh mining bee Colletes halophilus lives along the coast. It feeds primarily on sea aster, but also eats perennial sowthistles, creeping thistles and sea rocket. The bee carries the pollen between the hairs on her belly. Using nectar as cement, she makes small balls of pollen which she saves for her progeny. She digs the nest herself, choosing dry areas along side or sometimes even on salt marshes. Sometimes, a nest is found in the sea dike or in a beach ridge.

  • Squatters and murderers

    The nests of the saltmarsh mining bees are desired by another species, the Epeolus tarsalis. This parasitic bee lays its eggs in the nest of the saltmarsh mining bee. That makes life easy for the Epeolus tarsalis: let someone else dig your tunnel and gather food for your larvae. Not only do the larvae eat the pollen, they eat the larvae of the mining bee as well!

  • Alone but still with others

    Saltmarsh mining bees dig a tunnel in the ground, in which they lay their eggs. This tunnel can be as long as 20 centimeters deep and has 6 horizontal side tunnels. Each egg is laid in a separate room at the end of a side tunnel and has its own food supply. A saltmarsh mining bee digs the tunnel and supplies the food herself. However, you never see just one saltmarsh mining bee. These bees like to dig their tunnels close to one another. That can be quite a few. In that sense, they have similarities with colonial animals.

  • Distribution and habitat

    Most 'colonies' of saltmarsh mining bees are found along the coast of Zeeland. However, you also find them in the wadden region. The most important thing for the bees is the presence of sufficient sea asters and suitable nesting grounds. In order to dig their nest, they prefer scarcely overgrown sandy soil within flying distance of sea aster (maximum 1 kilometer). On Texel, you find saltmarsh mining bees on the nature area the Schorren and in the Slufter.