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Yesterday morning it was 14°C in our valley. This morning it was 6°C, and raining horizontally on a vicious, gusting wind, and the bedding plants I bought yesterday were looking like they regretted having come to live here. I’ve now put them in the garage until this storm blows through, which it might do by Saturday if we’re lucky.

Kept inside by the weather, I managed to plough through a good chunk of domestic admin, and then went to Waitrose to shop for a planned visit at the weekend by the Family B. When I emerged from the supermarket it had unexpectedly turned sunny, and marginally warmer, and a few minutes after I got home the better weather arrived in my wake, but it was still blowing a hoolie, and the clouds were moving so fast that I knew I couldn’t rely on the clement spell lasting too long.

There were almost no invertebrates out in the garden when I took the macro and went looking – though to be fair the wild half of it is now under water again and I was only able to search the drier half, so I may have missed an insect rave going on down in the quagmire. Most of the inverts I did find were male Eristalis pertinax, stoically clinging to thrashing foliage in various exposed situations, in the surely vain hope of spotting, or being spotted by, a passing female. By the time I found this male miner I’d pretty much had enough of being out – and so had he, because a few seconds later he disappeared and I didn’t see him again. Shortly after I’d returned to the house the weather excelled itself by producing half an hour’s horizontal hail, before getting tired and going back to raining.

I’ve reached the conclusion, probably belatedly, that there might well be something wrong with me. I have a real problem with names, even of people I know quite well, and I try to avoid being in situations that require me to produce someone’s name, because there’s a high likelihood I’ll get it wrong. But the instant this photo appeared on my big computer screen I said, “Oh good – Andrena nitida. First of the year!” Perhaps I’d be less hopeless at identifying people if they all grew wings.

Steven Falk’s page on the Grey-patched Mining Bee is here, if you’d like to know more about the species. Females are distinctive, being quite large, with shiny black bodies fringed with white hair, often rather grey faces, and a dense, russet-coloured thoracic pile that makes them look as though they’re wearing fox fur jackets. Males are smaller and less obviously identifiable, as is usually the case with mining bees, but the combination of a foxy thorax, black abdomen with white fringing, and facial hair that’s mostly white but with black along the inner edge of the eye, is diagnostic. Nitida, by the way, comes from the Latin nitidus, meaning bright, shining, or smart. It’s the origin of the English word neat, and the French net/nette. So if you’ve got a smart little bee with a black and white face and a foxy jacket, Andrena nitida might well be your guy.