Sunday, April 8, 2012

...and the Bees


As part of our wildlife habitat, we built a large wood bee house from untreated lumber and installed it in our courtyard. The post is about 5 feet tall, with over 100 holes drilled to provide a nesting site for Solitary Bees.

Solitary bees are excellent pollinators and make a welcome garden guest. Unlike "social" bees which may swarm and sting, solitary bees are non-aggressive because they do not have a hive to defend.

These bees lay their eggs in natural holes they find in trees and branches or man-made structures. Solitary bees do not build their own nest holes.

There is a lot of bee activity in our yard. The young solitary bees started emerging a week or two ago, and now there are at least 2 different types of solitary bees using the bee house for egg laying. Here are some pictures.

One of the bee species using our bee house has a long, narrow pointed abdomen, with beautiful light markings on its head and thorax. It is relatively calm and slower moving that the other species.

The second solitary bee species (right) has a more rounded abdomen. It is plainer than the other solitary bee, and a lot faster and more active. It was difficult to get any pictures of them, but I managed a few.

The picture on the left shows the bee's abdomen and legs covered with pollen.

Sometimes instead of going into the hole head first, the bee would back into it to deposit her eggs. The picture on the right shows the bee's face as she is coming out of the hole.

Another solitary bee was using a hole in the base of our waterfall for depositing her eggs (below). The hole measures about 3/8" across.

Solitary bees have an interesting life cycle. After mating in the spring, the female solitary bee lays her eggs in cavities, preferring narrow, tube-like openings. Each egg is provisioned with pollen and nectar, and the cell is sealed off with mud.

She creates more partitions in the tube, each holding an egg and its provision of pollen and nectar. After completing the final cell in the tube, the opening is walled off with mud and plant material.

Later as each egg matures into a larvae, it consumes the stored food and the spins a cocoon, pupating through fall and winter. The young bees will emerge in the spring to mate and begin the cycle again.

"The bee is more honored than other animals, not because she labors, but because she labors for others."   ~ St. John Chrysostom

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