Andrena is a very large genus of bees, many of them difficult to identify to species level as there are many lookalikes. There are about 150 species in France. Some are very rare, some are very common. Several Andrena spp emerge particularly early in spring.
One important clue to the identity of any Andrena you see is to note the flower you see it feeding on. Most species restrict their foraging to a very few, or even sometimes single plant species.
A typical Andrena sp, photographed in early March.Even with high quality detail, expert hymenopterists such as you will find on the HymIS or BWARS forums cannot identify most Andrena for certain from photographs. Superficially, many of them look like Honey Bees. They tend to have rather flat abdomens.
Andrena spp are called Mining Bees because they generally nest in holes in the ground. They are not a social species, but they often nest in colonies, digging individual burrows in close proximity to one another.
Photographed by Loire Valley Nature:
Photographs are numbered from left to right and top to bottom. All photos can be enlarged in a new window by clicking on them. 1 - 2 Andrena sp in the haymeadow in front of our orchard, April.