The ashy mining bee, Andrena cineraria, is described as being one of the easiest of the solitary bee species to identify. This is how I know one when I see one.
They are black with two ashy grey bands, the males and females are similarly marked, but the females are larger and the males have tufty grey hairs around their face. You can submit a sighting here.
They fly between early April and June. They nest in the ground, sometimes in groups, in lawns and flower beds. They prefer sandy soil and a sunny position.
They feed on a wide variety of blossoms and flowers. In this instance there were four of them feeding on cow parsley. There were also many other bees and hoverflies at the same time, but cow parsley is also a useful food source for butterflies and moths.
Cow parsley, Anthriscus sylvestris, is often found in woodland and verges. It is a member of the carrot family with distinctive white umbels. It has the fancier name of Queen Anne’s Lace, the common name suggest that it is an inferior parsley. The leaves can indeed be used in salads. However, cow parsley is easily confused with hemlock which is deadly. It is also known as Mother-Die as superstition had it that if it was brought into the house it would kill your mother. The hollow stems can be used as pea shooters.
Yet another name used is kecks, and it is using this term that Shakespeare mentions them in “Henry V”. The Duke of Burgundy refers to them in rather disparaging terms:
Wanting the scythe, all uncorrected, rank,
Conceives by idleness and nothing teems
But hateful docks, rough thistles, kecksies, burs,
Losing both beauty and utility.
Being idle myself I have failed to scythe these kecksies, but the various bees and hoverflies have benefited and personally I find this inferior parsley to be a very attractive plant; a froth of white dancing among the greenery.