Learning the bees

Happy World Bee Day!

Until a few years ago, I was unenlightened about bees, especially native bees. Like most people, I thought most bees were like European honey bees (Apis mellifera) – lived in hives, made tasty honey, died when they stung you, do a waggle dance to tell their friends where the good flowers could be found. Oh, was I wrong!

No bee native to North America makes honey! Honey is used to keep the honey bee colony fed throughout the winter, but our native bees aren’t active during the winter. Mining bee adults overwinter underground and emerge in the spring. All other native bees are in a state of diapause throughout the winter as a larva.

90% of our native bees are solitary and do not form large colonies with a queen. Instead a single female will prepare a nest that may contain several cells each with one egg. The female will provision each cell with a mixture of pollen and nectar, bee bread, where she lays her egg. The larva then pupa will eat this as it grows and matures into an adult. Depending on the species, nests are made in a variety of locations and substrates: the ground, in hollow plant stems, holes burrowed in wood, crevices in stones, etc… Making bee hotels is becoming a very popular DIY pollinator conservation activity!

I have so much more to learn!

While I have had a relatively easy time to identifying the 13 butterfly species visiting my pollinator meadow, the bees are another story!


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