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Weird little mounds.


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I found these little structures this morning when we were out walking dogs.  They are about the size of a small fist and there were lots and lots of them, all quite close together.  They covered a fairly large area and were very freshly made but we didn't see any inhabitants.  They reminded me of something we called 'ant lions' in Africa but they were kind of reversed - the hole was at the bottom of an inverted slope and the prey would slip down the sandy slope into the clutches of the predator insect at the bottom.  Perhaps they are ant holes but why so many of them, there were probably 100 or more and they were not there day before yesterday. 

[IMG]http://i60.photobucket.com/albums/h15/miggimeggi/IMGP0378.jpg[/IMG]

[IMG]http://i60.photobucket.com/albums/h15/miggimeggi/IMGP0379.jpg[/IMG]

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How wierd are they??? My first thoughts are that they are lumps of some kind of posion to kill weeds? maybe the person who placed it has poked holes in it to drive it ino the ground? this can not be burrowed up soil, it looks like large pieces of salt, I would keep the dogs well away. I would love to hear if you find out what they are.
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The white stuff is the soil and the crystalline bits are just that - bits of crystal of some sort.  It is really just very coarse, white sand.  I don't think that the mounds are stuck together with anything like any kind of secretion,  it just seems like freshly dug, moist coarse sand.  The holes are approximately 1cm across and the things are absolutely not man-made.  Not only are they too  irregular but also, nobody would bother, the field belongs to our old and ill landlady and is too poor even to be worth cutting for hay.  This particular portion of the field is on a downward slope and has even poorer soil than the rest and mostly only grows heather and (I think) wild sorrel.  We walk the dogs here most days when the weather allows and I didn't see these last year.  We haven't actually searched for more but there do not seem to be any on the (slightly) better soil.

I, also,  had wondered about either bees or wasps.  There weren't any flying around when I took the pics but then it was getting dull and the drizzle was just starting so not really bee weather,  also there are not yet any flowers around where the mounds are.  Curious.  If the rain holds off tomorrow I will have a closer look at it.

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You may need to do a lot of research, but try starting with "Apoidea", most of these use well drained sandy soil, some emerge as early as Feb and can be found in large groupings, I suspect that from Apoidea you "drop down" to A.Andrena. of which there are loads of types, but that's a guess.

A lot of these bees don't look much like the general idea of what a bee looks like and I guess most people pay no attention to them when they are on dandelions etc.

Have fun, Chris

 

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[quote user="chris pp"]

You may need to do a lot of research, but try starting with "Apoidea", most of these use well drained sandy soil, some emerge as early as Feb and can be found in large groupings, I suspect that from Apoidea you "drop down" to A.Andrena. of which there are loads of types, but that's a guess.

A lot of these bees don't look much like the general idea of what a bee looks like and I guess most people pay no attention to them when they are on dandelions etc.

Have fun, Chris

[/quote]

Well spotted Chris!  I searched as you suggested and could see that you were right and the culprit is A.Andrena.  The thing that was still bothering me was the absence of any flowers in the area but then I found a reference to a type of  Andrena,   Andrena macoupinensis.  This type forages mostly on Salix (willow) and about 150 metres away there is a little area of woodland which includes a lot of catkin trees which all came into full flower just a few days ago.  So.......catkins come into flower and almost simultaneously bees set up home just across the way on a nice, well drained sandy slope close to all local amenities.  Ain't nature wonderful. [:D]  I still need to check the distribution of this one  to see if they occur here and also Christine's plasterer but now we are off to walk the dogs.  Perhaps we will see one of the bees, especially now that I have a better idea of what I am looking for.

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