Andrena cornelli is a beautiful, finely structured mining bee that is associated with Rhododendrons in eastern North America. This is also one of the first species that I photographed in the summer of 2013 in Highlands, NC when I was first kicking around the idea of this project. I photographed this male A. cornelli just this past week (April, 2014) in Pickens, South Carolina as it visited a Pinxter Azalea.
If you’re just becoming interested in bees, certain clues, such as food source, flight time (either season or time of day) and other characteristics can really be useful when trying to get a general idea of a species’ identity. In the case of this species, one of the key physical features is the sparse, long scopal hairs (the hairs on the hind legs used for collecting pollen). While I’m still very much a beginner in this process of learning to identify North America’s native bees (or the species that I encounter) as I ramp up for my project, one of the things that excites me most is that after a few months of study I am beginning to recognize certain characteristics that are helping me to at least make reasonable guesses towards a species’ family and genus.