It’s a full day of rain today, so time to highlight a few of the small native bees that will live on your property permanently. With just a few accommodations, these guys will be busy pollinating all your flowers, and providing sustenance to birds and other wildlife. As your population grows, a balance will occur all along the wildlife food chain. As an example, insects/pollinators are a primary nutrition source for 96% of the terrestrial bird species in North America, particularly hatchlings. So, you want to have a lot!!
Medium to Small, Important Bees
Leafcutter and Mason Bees – Medium Bees
Members of the Megachilidae family.
Both are solitary bees.
Between ½ - ¾ inches long.
Specialized hairs under the belly will collect pollen, but there is no hair on the legs as on the Bumble and Carpenter bees. They “bump their butt” up and down on the bloom in a little dance – very cute if you see it.
They nest in a premade cavity in wood, hollow plant stems, crevises under bark or rocks and exposed rock.
Leafcutter bees emerge in spring and forage into fall. They are important in wildflower and some crop pollination.
Mason Bees emerge in early spring and have one generation – they aren’t found much after May, but 150 bees were equal to 3,000 honey bees in documented crop pollination . Considered the most important native fruit crop pollinator.
Female Leafcutter bees chew perfect circles on leaves to line their nests – you can especially notice it on roses. They do not harm the plant in the long term.
Both bees are estimated to live in a territory about the length of a football field (300 ft) in their life. If nesting sites and nectar/pollen are available, even less.
The Long Horned bee is a member of the Megachilidae family.
Sweat bees belong to the Halictid family.
Both are solitary.
Both are between ¼ - ½ inch long.
Sweat bees nest in bare ground in the sun while the Long Horned bee burrows into wood, etc., as do the Mason and Leafcutter bees.
Male Long Horns have exceptionally long antennae – hence the name.
Sweat bees are attracted to sweat as it provides vital nutrients.
Both bees are known for high activity from mid-summer into fall.
Both bees are important pollinators for many indigenous plants and crops, including stone fruits, pears, loquats and most field crops locally cultivated.
The territory for these smaller bees is estimated as 100 – 300 ft. so they depend on the forage/pollen/nesting sites found within your yard.
Overall, these bees are less aggressive to humans because they are solitary and therefore do not protect a nest. However, it’s still important to watch for ground nesting sites.
While these bees are not as noticeable as our bumbles and honey bees, they are as important to our habitat. For our healthy Homegrown habitat space we want to promote as much diversity as possible, so it’s important to provide all the elements they need to be safe and secure.
My next blog will begin to identify exactly what’s needed on our property to support and encourage ALL these guys to not only survive, but thrive. I’ll begin with the NON-PLANT habitat needs – see you in about a month!