Much of what we read about bees refers to honey bees. However there are thousands of species of wild bees as well. These are mostly solitary bees, where every female lays eggs, rather than just the one queen, as is the case in honey bee colonies.
I recently attended a class on creating habitat for wild bees, specifically cavity nesting bees. About 70% of wild bees nest in the ground and very little is known about these bees scientifically, according to the speaker. However, scientists know more about cavity nesting bees and this was the focus. These are bees that nest in hollow shapes, such as reeds, hollowed stems or holes in wood. There are several kinds of cavity nesting bees, including mason bees that pack their nests with mud and leaf cutters that use pieces of leaves to wrap their cocoons. Loss of available habitat is one of the challenges these bees face and it is an area where humans can actually help. There are a few ways we can help by restoring natural habitat or providing new habitat, that we create.
How to help create habitat for cavity nesting bees
As part of the class I went to, I was provided with two bee nesting boxes (pollinator
‘mailboxes’) made from milk cartons and paper tubes. In exchange, I will participate in a citizen science initiative to help track the kinds of cavity nesting bees we’re seeing in our region, around Seattle in the Pacific Northwest. The nesting boxes have a variety of sizes of tubes in order to attract a variety of bees. It wouldn’t be difficult to make these yourself out of painted milk cartons, paper tubes and a way to stand it off the ground. However, if you’re not up for a project, it’s so easy to get a kit. Here’s where I talk about my first mason bee house. There are some great kits that are ready to go and you can either see who may show up or actually get some bees as well.
In 2016, for the first time, bees were added to the endangered species list in the United States. 7 species of Hawaiian yellow-faced bees, native to Hawaii, were added. Then in early 2017, the first bee to be placed on the endangered species list by the Fish and Wildlife Service in the continental US was the rusty patched bumblebee. At the time of this writing the new administration in the White House had put this one on hold.
The Rusty Patched Bumblebee
Rusty patched bumblebees are the first bee in the continental US to be placed on the endangered species list for federal protection. This species has undergone an incredibly rapid decline by almost 90% in the last two decades. These large, furry-looking bumble bees used to be a common sight in most of North America, but this is no longer the case. They are essential pollinators of tomatoes, peppers, blueberries and other important crops.
Bees on the Endangered Species List
According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, once a species is on the list, it is easier for them to create partnerships and gather resources towards the goal of saving the endangered population. In the case of bees, this is no simple task. The decline of this bee (and also that of many other bee species worldwide) is thought to be caused by a combination of factors: diseases, lack of habitat, climate change and, of course, harmful pesticides and insecticides especially neonicotinoids. Neonicotinoids are used in products for gardens, farm crops and pets. Continue reading Bees on the Endangered Species List→
The starter kit for Leafcutter bees from Crown Bees is called Beehaven and is a super inexpensive way to give raising native bees a try. It is the cheapest kit on their site at only 24.95. This includes a small bee house, paper tubes for the bees to nest in and 30 actual leafcutter bee cocoons. The kit comes with a certificate that you can redeem on the website to get your bees shipped to you when you want them and when they will thrive in your area. As I talked about last time, Leafcutter bees need quite warm weather. The Beehaven kit is very easy to mount. It is plastic and shaped like a miniature mailbox. The kit also comes with several tubes for the bees to nest in. The instructions suggest putting the bees inside the house with the cloth bag open when you first set it up. However this house is so TINY, that there wasn’t room for all the tubes and the bag on top. I ended up taking out a few of the tubes and sort of shoving the bee bag in. I (hopefully) didn’t squash any of the bees, as most cocoons were empty after about a week. Continue reading Review: Crown Bees Bee Haven Starter Kit for Leafcutter Bees→
There are two kinds of bees easily available online in the US and Canada that will come right to your mailbox in the regular mail: Mason bees and Leafcutter bees. I had a lot of fun setting up my first bee house and watching the mason bees go to town this spring. They don’t live long though and finally the weather here in the Pacific Northwest has gotten just about warm enough for Leafcutter bees. I bet you can’t guess how these gals protect the eggs they lay? They cut leaves to protect each egg.
As we’ve learned, here at Bees and Wax, there are thousands of kinds of bees beyond the honey bee. These are solitary bees that do not live in hives or make honey, but they do the amazing work of pollinating, so we all can EAT. Thanks again bees! Anyway, leafcutter bees are little, smaller than the Mason bee and need hot weather. They prefer it in the 80s (Fahrenheit), but the packaging from Crown Bees says they need it at least over 70 F. They use nesting tubes just like Mason bees, but instead of packing their eggs in mud, they use tiny pieces of leaves that they cut and carry to their nesting tubes or holes. Continue reading Welcome Leafcutter Bees→
The hallways of my daughter’s elementary school are so covered in kid-made posters and so crowded with actual kids and parents after school, that I usually notice very little on my way to her classroom to pick her up. But something caught my eye this week. I spied the words Colony Collapse Disorder on a marker-drawn poster! What?! I then discovered several more posters about how to save our bees throughout the halls. It turns out that a 3rd grade class had done a project on the ways we can all help save our bees.
I found this great free downloadable poster about the difference between solitary bees and honey bees. It’s much clearer than anything I could write on the subject, so here it is! You can get your own for free right here.
Most of us are aware that the last 25 years have seen alarming decreases in the numbers of bees. Bees are responsible for pollinating around 70% of our fruits and vegetables. The main reasons for their decline are pesticide and insecticide use (especially neonicotinoids), parasites like the varroa mite, a reduction in flower-rich habitat and monoculture farming practices. This dire situation has inspired many to learn beekeeping and start keeping their own bees. However, this requires a financial investment up front and for a variety of reasons, not everyone wants to keep bees. Not to fear, there are lots of smaller things you can do to help save honey bees. It can be as small as putting some flowers in your window box, buying local honey or donating to an organization that’s helping bees.
If you don’t quite know what manuka honey is, don’t worry. I didn’t either, until recently. I heard from a reader that she and other horse owners use manuka honey with their horses for treating lacerations. They apply it directly to the wound. This intrigued me so I dug a little deaper. Turns out there are lots of answers to the question: What is manuka honey used for? But first things first…
What Makes Manuka Honey Special?
The manuka tree or bush is native to New Zealand and only grows in parts of New Zealand and Australia. While regular raw, unfiltered honey has tons of nutritional benefits, manuka honey takes this to a whole new level. It is much more nutrient rich with much higher levels of the enzymes that convert to hydrogen peroxide and result in powerful anti-microbial properties. Continue reading What is Manuka Honey Used For?→
I got this simple bamboo mason bee house for my daughter last year. I chose this one because it had a nice modern look, and was made from bamboo. It was also one of the least expensive I saw. I thought it would be a great way to learn about bees and attract them to our yard. I have learned a lot since buying this house a year ago. See this post about getting my first bees and how I had to rig this house to make it safe and functional by basically taking it completely apart. I recommend looking at the mason bee houses and supplies at Crown Bees, where I got my mason bees, if you are looking for a bee house.
Mason bees are non-agressive, native bees that lay their eggs in narrow passages, like those in the bee house. Unlike honey bees, they are solitary bees. The females make their own nests and there are no worker bees. They lay their eggs in hollowed tubular shapes, such as hollow reeds or holes in wood. When a nest is filled with eggs, they plug the end and move on to find the next nest great post to read.
These mason bee houses and others like them provide lots of tube shaped spaces for bees to create nests and lay their eggs. If it looks plugged up with mud or something pasty you’ll know it is filled with eggs. So far in ours, none of the tubes are filled. I’m not sure if we just don’t have mason bees around here or if they have plenty of other spaces nearby in which to lay their eggs. Continue reading Product Review: Bamboo Mason Bee House→
Most candles are made from either paraffin, soy or beeswax. The colorful shelves of aromatic candles we see at the grocery store are usually paraffin. They’ve gone through a lot of chemical processing to get into their attractive disguise. Soy candles with either some soy (mixed with paraffin) or 100% soy can also be found. These are a step up from paraffin, but still often have synthetic scents. And then there are beeswax candles, which you may not find at the grocery store, but it is defintiely worth looking for them elsewhere. Continue reading 8 Reasons to Use 100% Pure Beeswax Candles→