Backyard Critters: Solitary Bees

Most people are somewhat familiar with the social lifestyle of honeybees and bumblebees, the ones we mostly see around flowers. With the exception of Bumblebees, native wild bees are different in that they are largely solitary in their lifestyle. Common solitary bees are mason bees, plasterer bees, digger bees, sweat bees and carpenter bees.

Female bees are capable of stinging, but are not normally aggressive. They do not sting unless trapped, stepped on or otherwise endangered. Male bees are similar in size to females, they may act aggressively, but they cannot sting (male bees lack stingers).

When solitary bees emerge from their nests as adults they quickly groom themselves and set out to find food in the form of nectar. Male bees emerge earlier than female bees and often position themselves near floral resources, waiting to encounter receptive females. Male bees die shortly after mating and female bees go in search of a specific place to build a nest.

There are two main types of nests, ground nests and cavity nests. Ground nesting bees, such as sweat bees and alkali bees will dig out a subterranean nest in loose, sandy material. Cavity nesters such as leaf-cutter bees and orchard bees will look for pre-existing cavities such as hollow stems or holes in wood, that are just the right size to use as a nest. They will commonly use bee houses while ground nesting bees may nest in the wet ground below it. Once the nest is either dug or a suitable tube or hole is found, the female bee creates a series of cells, each of which will house a food source, a mix of pollen and nectar packed into a ball, and a single egg. The female bee will make numerous foraging trips to flowers collecting pollen and nectar that she will then deposit and pack into a ball in each cell. When the entire nest is complete she seals off the end and moves on to creating a new nest. It is on these trips to collect pollen and nectar for her nest that the female bee acts as a pollinator for wild plants and food crops.

Related: Backyard Critters: Rabbits


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06.12.13  12:00PM    KAREN B

Categories: backyard habitat,gardening

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