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NEWisc
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Native Bees for Pollination

The decline in commercial honey bee populations has shed a lot of light on the importance of pollinators. Beyond the imported honey bees, there are thousands of species of native bees that play a major role in pollinating our plants. Although some plants are pollinated by the wind (corn, for example) and other vectors, most plants rely on insects. For most gardeners, native bees are probably the primary pollinator. From apples to zucchinis we rely on them to produce the fruits and vegetables that we want.

There are a lot of simple steps that we as gardeners can take to increase our populations of native bees. The USDA National Agroforestry Center has recently published 3 articles on supporting native bee populations:
https://www.unl.edu/nac/agroforestrynotes/an34g08.pdf
https://www.unl.edu/nac/agroforestrynotes/an33g07.pdf
https://www.unl.edu/nac/agroforestrynotes/an32g06.pdf

A lot of these steps are relatively easy to accomplish, and both we and the native bees will benefit.

opabinia51
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Yes! I fully agree with you on the native bee effort, North America's bee population is having really hard times right now. Build little bee boxes by drilling hole (and cleaning them out) into wood blocks and hang them around your house and garden. Mason bees will lay their eggs in them.

Mason bees are excellant pollinators and their sting doesn't hurt that much.

And don't use anything with the suffix -cide. These products are terrible for the soil, terrible for the flora and fauna that live on plants and fight disease, kill native insects (like bees), are having an enormous detriment to North Americas Amphibian populations and really don't work that well to control disease anyway.

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Roger
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Fully agree with both above posts! About three years ago I began keeping a couple of small hives of honey bees on my property. In that time, I have become more aware of the bees place in the great scheme of things pertaining to agriculture. Their impact on a healthy garden because of their pollination efforts is so very underestimated. My garden itself has become at least half again as productive because of better pollination in that time, and I have done little different than before I began raising bees, so their impact is measurable, once you are aware of it.

To add to Opbinia's post : If for whatever reason you find that you absolutely must use an insecticide in the garden or lawn, don't apply it to a plant while it is in bloom. The presence of the bees [since there is a bloom there] often drives off or discourages the insects you are wanting to kill; and you will end up just killing the various bees and butterflies who are actually helping your garden.

As a note to help draw bees to your garden : You can plant a specimen plant of "Pineapple Sage" (Salvia elegans) somewhere near the garden and find out if there are bees of any sort within a [literal] mile of your property. I have discovered that they love this plant; it is a late summer/autumn blooming plant and thus gives them pollen and nectar at a time when many other plants are not producing. Abundant red blooms and you can make an herbal tea from the flowers, so it gives you a little something too. Hummingbirds and butterfly's love it as well.

TheLorax
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Great thread!
Great links!
Great comments!

My turn! I just get so excited when I find like-minded people!

We're losing pollinators at an unprecedented rate. This is cause for mounting concern. Collateral pesticide damage has long taken a toll on the environment. There's a great book out there titled, "The Forgotten Pollinators". Two more I'd like suggest would be "Evolutionary Ecology of Plant Reproductive Strategies" and "Pollinator Conservation Handbook: A Guide to Understanding, Protecting, and Providing Habitat for Native Pollinator Insects".

I'm mostly interested in Mason Bees because introduced parasitic wasps are wiping them out but I garden for Bumbles too. There are about 200 or so native bees lumped into the category of Mason bees. Bumble Blocks are discussed here complete with blueprints-
https://tomclothier.hort.net/page38.html
Mason bee blocks are discussed here-
https://magazine.audubon.org/audubonathome/audubonathome0601.html
Some great photos of more bee blocks here-
https://habitat.ms11.net/bee/beehome.htm
This is how I make mine-
https://snohomish.wsu.edu/mg/ombblock/ombblock.htm
Placement of mason bee blocks discussed here-
https://www.masonbeehomes.com/the_buzz_about_bees.php
The species of masons I have don’t like to be swinging from a tree so I place my blocks closer to the ground and they are mounted. I’ve been using untreated oak and fir for my blocks. Very important to use untreated wood and best to stay away from cedar and pine if possible. If anyone is interested I have a drill bit that is perfect that I could go dig it up to see what size it is-
Here's where I get bees-
https://www.knoxcellars.com/

After my bees are done using my blocks, I give the blocks a decent soaking in a mild bleach solution. You can take a high pressured garden hose nozzle and blow out the mud after they’re done soaking. I toss my blocks out and make more every couple of years.

I’d like to add that of all the neonicotinoids, imidacloprid is the most toxic to birds and fish. Both imidacloprid and thiamethoxam are highly toxic to honeybees.
https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/PI117

Below is but a partial list of products containing imidacloprid:
Advantage
Admire
Bayer Rose and Flower Insecticide
Condifor
Gaucho
Marathon
Merit
Premier
Premise
Provado

Sleepers abound. Take Spinosad which is an “organicâ€

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NEWisc
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Thanks for all those excellent links!

I've had mason bee blocks out for several years, and I always enjoy watching them in the spring. Their life span is quite short; in my area they are pretty much done by the end of June. But the activity around the bee blocks goes on - besides the mason bees, several leafcutter bees use the holes to raise their young. The leafcutters are later than the masons, their activity starts about the time the masons finish and continue through much of the summer.

Bee blocks with different size holes get used throughout the summer by many species of native bees. Holes as small as a 1/16th of an inch will be filled by tiny little bees that rarely get noticed. There are so many different species of these little bees that I haven't been able to nail down a positive ID yet.

TheLorax
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Ohhhhhhhhh, I might be able to make my existing bee blocks multitask by drilling smaller holes! Never thought about leafcutter bees because I was focused on my masons so many thanks for mentioning that. I've been using a 5/16th inch drill bit. Any other sizes you can recommend other than 1/16th? Also too, how deep for that size hole? In order to avoid the costs of buying blocks of wood that aren't treated, I've started using Rhamnus logs cut down to about 18". We'll see if there is any decline in activity this coming season. Not that it would be able to be attributed exclusively to a materials change with all that's going on but I'm curious. If there is no decline in activity, I'm done buying untreated blocks of oak.

I had no idea there were concerned gardeners here, time to check out this site-
https://www.springerlink.com/content/1572-9753/

Look for Number 2 / June, 2006 Special Issue: Insect Habitats
Once the new page opens up click on Biotope Associations and the Decline of Bumblebees
Note these comments,
"Our results concur with previous suggestions that bumblebees are generally not habitat specialists, so that the conservation of most bumblebee species could be achieved by restoration of flower-rich unimproved meadows."

Unimproved, as used in the article, basically means a meadow that hasn't been claimed for agricultural use. What is suggested above is that gardeners consider using species of plants that are indigenous to one's local region to help offset habitat loss due to construction for housing as well as any other reason why land would be "improved". The article encourages gardeners to consider using what space we have to plant wisely. Sometimes, it's not how much we plant but what we plant. Quality not quantity.

One of the many reasons why I've been leaning more and more toward native plants over the years. The above site is chalk full of interesting tid bits from all continents of the world. I really enjoy reading about what's going on in Europe as well as what's going on elsewhere. It's foreshadowing of events yet to come at many times.

I don’t know if I posted this link already so here goes-
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070906140803.htm

You probably know about the Varroa mite but were you aware there was also a Tracheal mite believed to have come from Mexico that burrows into a bee's windpipe to suck its blood?

https://www.myleftwing.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=18745

I don't believe our Mason bees are affected by IAPV.

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NEWisc
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The ideal hole size for mason bees (Osmia lignaria) is 5/16th inch diameter and 6 or more inches deep. A "brad point" drill bit will make nice clean holes. The female mason bee lays the new females first (in the deepest part of the hole). If the hole is at least 6 inches deep she will usually lay at least two females. If the hole is shallower, she will only lay one female. After laying the females she fills the remaining space with males. The more females, the more bees for next year. Females also do a lot more pollination because they are gathering nectar and pollen for stocking the new nests. There is an excellent and inexpensive book on mason bees available from Knox Cellars:
https://www.knoxcellars.com/Merchant2/merchant.mv?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=KCNP&Product_Code=OMB2&Category_Code=BL

The ideal size for leafcutters is acutally 1/4 inch, but they will use the larger mason bee holes without complaining. A 3 - 4 inch depth for leafcutters works fine.

For the other hole nesting native bees, there really isn't enough information available yet to define the ideal hole sizes. I would encourage anyone interested in providing nesting places for these bees to experiment and find out what works best for the bees in your area. Even when there is enough data available, it is very hard to positively ID many of these species. I use 1/16th, 1/8th and 3/16th inch holes. For these small drill bits I simply drill the hole to the full depth of the bit. It's difficult to get a clean hole in these small sizes in anything other than hardwoods.

Bumblebees are great pollinators, and providing nesting places for them is a very good idea for any gardener. It's a somewhat involved process; any anyone interested in doing this would find this book to be a great help:
https://www.knoxcellars.com/Merchant2/merchant.mv?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=KCNP&Product_Code=HBBB&Category_Code=BL

Beyond providing nesting places, the greatest help to native bees is a continuous source of pollen and nectar. There's no better way to do that than to use the local native plants that they have been using for thousands of years. Many of these plants (as well as the bees) may now be very scarce due to land being used for development, etc. Growing some of these plants for the bees will help them reestablish their populations and give them a better chance of survival. And that will be good for us because we will get our gardens pollinated. :D

TheLorax
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The holes I've been drilling were 5/16th and they were 6" deep for the reasons you mentioned. I had a piece of tape denoting 6" to use as a guide as to when to stop drilling. Think I should go deeper than 6"?

I think I'm going to create whole new blocks with an assortment of hole sizes keeping the depths to around 5" or so.

Knox Cellars is one of my favorite websites. I buy my bees from them.

I'm really excited about this.

Just realized the article "Biotope Associations and the Decline of Bumblebees" isn't coming up on a search at the site I posted a link to so since it supports some of your comments, here it is-
[quote]Received: 22 April 2005 Accepted: 24 July 2005

Abstract Much of the ecology of rare bumblebee species remains poorly understood and in need of further study. It has recently been suggested that differences in the range and rate of decline among bumblebee species may relate to differences in their degree of habitat specialization. We examine biotope use by 17 bumblebee species in the Hebrides, southern UK and South Island, New Zealand. We identify a cluster of widespread and abundant species that occur in almost all biotopes and exploit man-made environments such as gardens and arable margins, this group corresponding to the “mainland ubiquitousâ€

sososleepy
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Wow, I have a lot of reading to do on bees now that I've found this thread! I have very green bees on my wild poinsettia, and recently found half a dozen bees on my Aloe flowers. They were neat because the pollen on their legs was very orange, and I'm used to seeing yellow. How do I figure out where my bees live now?

opabinia51
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Well there's the question, you'll have to look at the bees and see where they fly to find where there homes are. Sometimes wasps and bees make homes underground, sometimes in nests in little cruxes along your house or in trees. Sometimes along the ground.

Be very careful though, you don't want to get stung. Another thing you can do is find some wood and drill holes in it with a drill and hang on the side of you house and along fences for Mason Bees to make their homes in. They will lay eggs. I think it is February or March when they hatch and do their thing.

sososleepy
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Hi Opabinia,
I can't imagine following them! It's hard enough to watch them from one flower to another to get more pictures; they're FAST! I'm rather good at finding the paper wasp nests, but they eat my caterpillars (I've seen it, and I've photographed it.) so I gleefully dispose of them in a variety of ways from midnight raids where I pluck the nest into a zip-lock baggie to standing outside with the vacuum hose sucking patrolling wasps out of the air from around my host plants. Wasps aside, I like my other bees so far (reserve the right to hate the invasive attack bees reported down here if I ever am unfortunate enough to find them.) The green bees are fabulous - I found my first one photographing Atala butterflies. There are photos of them here: https://butterflies.heuristron.net/others/greenBee.html and I'd be happy to link those back to this thread if you can firm up my attempt at an ID on them. Then I found these bees on my Aloe blooms, and I'm rather curious to ID them too. I looked up Mason Bees, but that covers a lot of bees. I'll keep checking out the bees because my goal is to ID every plant and critter in my yard. I figure that'll keep me busy for the rest of my life; a worthy goal? Regardless, it fills my weekends and it's fun and might hopefully fight off the Alzheimer’s that runs in my family by exercising my grey matter. How does one tell one bee from another?[img]https://butterflies.heuristron.net/forum/index.php?action=dlattach;topic=10.0;attach=1;image
(Had pix to post, but not sure how to get one uploaded here... linked one, but send directions if I can add one from my desktop)[/img]

dinker
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Is it a type of Sweat Bee


Sweat Bee, common name many of which are attracted to the salts in human perspiration. Most sweat bees are small to medium-sized, 3 to 10 mm (0.12 to 0.40 in) long. They are generally black or metallic colored, and some are brilliant green or brassy yellow. Sweat bees are among the most common bees wherever bees are found, except in Australia, Most sweat bees visit a variety of flowers. They sting only if handled.


Scientific classification: Sweat bees belong to the family Halictidae, order Hymenoptera. The common eastern sweat bee is Dialictus zephrum. The alkali bee is Nomia melanderi. Parasitic sweat bees are found in the genus Sphecodes.

TheLorax
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Bravo dinker! Excellent post!

sososleepy- try Agapostemon texanum?

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hendi_alex
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I've never had a bee box, but am fortunate to live on a 130 acre parcel far in the country yet several miles from the nearest farming. Also have always seen value in leaving dead and dying trees standing whenever practical. Finally, don't let the tree surgeon get too happy when some tree work is needed.

This first photo is of a hickory tree that is in pretty bad shape. Last time the tree man came, I had him cut about 40% of the height and had him limb all major limbs back much closer to the trunk. The tree is about 40 feet from the house and is now quite safe, yet still provides home for all of the critters that use dead wood for shelter and food.

[img]https://farm4.static.flickr.com/3004/2735429165_2dc2509de0.jpg[/img]

[img]https://farm4.static.flickr.com/3034/2735428321_02d02ab6d8.jpg[/img]

The next two photos are of an oak that is about 50 feet from the house and poses not safety issue and the pine is just outside the maintained yard area. You will note all of the holes made by the larger critters that use the dead trees for one thing or another. Have had several woodpeckers nest in many of the dead trees. The pine beetles keep a steady supply of dead pines. No sooner than one falls, another two or three die.

[img]https://farm4.static.flickr.com/3039/2735409227_b73be50805.jpg[/img]

[img]https://farm4.static.flickr.com/3230/2736244690_ac0cab1b54.jpg[/img]

The last couple of photos are just a sampling of the kinds of dead wood/scars that the big oaks have. Those areas make homes for squirrels, birds, snakes, and all kinds of boring and cavity nesting animals.

[img]https://farm4.static.flickr.com/3075/2736246264_5ea10e6866.jpg[/img]

IMO it is really important to leave dead trees standing when possible and also to leave the fallen trees on the forest floor. Each dead tree is like a tiny ecosystem with a whole host of fungi, plants, animals depending upon the specialized habitat provided by it as the wood goes through various stages of decay.

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Jewell
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Even though this thread was started last year it is a great thread!
The Great Sunflower Project is a bee count that you can participate in [url]https://www.greatsunflower.org/[/url] It has run a couple of years. I have more reading to do from the resources included here :D

Good news! Expanding my perennial beds has inceased the varieties of bumble bee species this year. Even in a small yard leaving the stumps and larger branches (casually used as path borders) has created more homes for native bees.

cynthia_h
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Dear Jewell, "Great" minds :lol: think alike!

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=13704

re. the "Great Sunflower Project."

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

LumpyLungwort
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To help the bees out in my garden and I am a greenhorn!, but have found the larger bees seem to very much like my nasturtium.
Where as the smaller ( I think wild bees ) go for my cornflowers, sunflowers and tobacco plants especially.
They seem to steer well clear of my geraniums also strangely don't much care for my highly scented night flowering stock or my heavily scented sweet peas?
Always gives me a buzz when I see them bumbleing around ( sorry could't resist it)
Also as you're probably all aware they go crazy for foxgloves.

GeorgiaGirl
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GREAT thread -- I had no interest in bees (actually, I'm a little scared of them, even if I know they aren't likely to sting :oops:), until this week when I planted some anise hyssop in full bloom, and noticed DOZENS of big, fat, beautiful bumbles all over all five hyssops!

I had never seen a bumble bee on our property in the 3.5 years we've lived here -- it's amazing to me that I instantly have many of them (as well as a few other bee varieties buzzing around that I know hadn't been here before).

I do need to find out where they live, because I do children's portrait photography on our property and an accidental step on a bee's nest is surely an accident waiting to happen... still, I'm delighted to see such pretty bumble bees abuzz here!
Julia in Georgia

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GUMBEE
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BEES

I POSTED SOMETHING UNDER THE COMPOST HEADING ABOUT BUMBLE BEES MAKING THERE NEST IN MY COMPOST PILE. EVERYBODY SEEMS TO THINK THIS IS NOT POSSIBLE AND THEY ARE PROBABLY YELLOWJACKETS (LIKE I DON'T KNOW THE DIFFERENCE). ALL I KNOW IS THEY LOOK LIKE BUMBLE BEES AND ARE NOT AGGRESSIVE AT ALL. THEY POLLINATED MY GARDEN ALL SUMMER AND THERE THEY'LL STAY UNTIL THEY DECIDE TO MOVE. I NEED THE BEES MORE THAN THE COMPOST.

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rainbowgardener
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Well, no, Gumbee, I read your other post and the responses. You did not post under the heading bumble bees. Here is the exact title of your post:

Honey Bees Made a Home in my Compost - What Can I Do? (bold added)

Every thing you wrote and what people responded to was about HONEY BEES. Bumble bees are NOT honey bees, they don't make (much) honey, they don't make honey combs, so they don't have the same kind of nesting requirements as honey bees.

Here's a little article about bumble bees that has pictures of them and a picture of a honey bee for comparison:

https://hercules.users.netlink.co.uk/Bee.html

Bumble bees are good pollinators and as you noted, they are not aggressive.

So you could have bumble bees in your compost, though I still think it is more likely mason bees or carpenter bees.

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Sage Hermit
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How can you transplant them bees Gumby? Feeding them makes the your friend btw.
You can solve all your problems in a garden/laboratory.

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