Beekeeping : Native Bees

(Reprinted from ETBA Newsletter)

Native Bees

by Peter Cole

(Advanced Master Beekeeper & Master Gardener)

While most months I focus on our beloved honey bee, this month I am going to focus several equally important native bees. There might be a variety of reasons why we cannot keep bees in a specific location, however understanding these native bees gives us another option as beekeepers to invite these pollinators into a space.  Bumble Bees, Carpenter bees, and Mason bees are all important to our native habitats.  

bumble bee
Bumble  Bee

Bumble bees are a large, hairy and social bee and while only nine live in Texas there are over a hundred found all over the U.S. They nest under ground in already empty cavities. 

 

Another native bee is the carpenter bee. This bee is similar to the Bumble bee, except the abdomen does not have any hair on it, it is shiny and yellow. Bumble bees are probably the most like honey bees of all the native bees. They have a hive, with the same castes as honey bees-Queen, Worker, and Drone. While they collect pollen and nectar, and will make and store honey for a dearth. 

 

Carpenter bee
Carpenter Bee

Large Carpenter bees are very similar to bumble bees however, Bumble bees are hairy all over, while carpenter bees have a shiny black abdomen. Then the similarities stop. Carpenter bees are not ground nesting, or social. Instead Carpenter bees burrow into wood, and lay eggs.  Since they burrow into wood they could be considered nuisance bees, however they are just as important as all of the other native bees found in Texas. 

mason bee
Mason Bees

Mason bees are the third and last of the native bees I am going to talk about. Mason bees are solitary, and nest in already existing cavities in wood, trees, or hollow hollow stems. Mason bees are excellent pollinators of fruit trees, collecting pollen and nectar to store for their brood. While they are solitary and won’t nest together, they often congregate meaning they build their nests close. 

mason bee huve
Mason Bee Hive

 

In conclusion, our native bees are important, and many times they get overlooked. There are many things that you can do to help native bees…

 

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