It's the time of year to talk about the birds and the bees!

Are you curious about wild bees' lifecycle? You may already know that our native mason and leafcutter bees are only flying as adults for a short 4-6 weeks. Most wild hole-nesting bees also have a short adult lifespan but some wild hole-nesting bees, like female carpenter bees, can live for years!

Regardless of lifespan length, all bees have a similar set of steps that their lives follow as they develop. Some bee species are paused at one stage for several months, some take no breaks at all and produce multiple generations of bees per season. Bees also have different seasons to fly and this tells them when to develop, when to pause, and when to emerge.

Solitary Bee Lifecycle

1. Egg + pollen loaf:

The loaf contains all the pollen and nectar the egg will need to become a full-sized larva (no honey required!)

2. Egg hatches:

The egg can either hatch right away and start eating the pollen loaf (as a very small larva), or it says in egg form until the time is right.

3. Larval stages:

As the larva eats it grows fatter and bumpier, there is sometimes a pausing stage before becoming a pupa. The larva can spin a cocoon or a few species remain exposed.

4. Pupal stage:

The larva starts to take on adult form but it remains white and has no wings.

5. Adult stage:

Color changes, hair and wings grow, the adult emerges from the nesting chamber to mate and raises the next generation of bees.

Sex Determination

Did you know that mother bees are able to choose the sex of each egg? How are mother bees able to do this? All bee species are haplodiploid and that word is quite a mouthful! Haplodiploid means that male bees are haploid because they only have one set of genes and female bees are diploid because they have two sets of genes.

• Male bees come from unfertilized eggs and they share 100% of their genes with their mothers.

• Female bees come from fertilized eggs and they get 50% of their genes from their mothers and 50% from their fathers.

The mother bees are able to determine the sex of their eggs by fertilizing (or not) eggs using stored sperm gained during mating. Solitary bees usually lay female eggs at the very back of the nesting hole in order to protect the female eggs. When male eggs are laid at the front, it allows the males to emerge first and scope out prime waiting spots.

Avoid Neonic Pesticides

Neonic pesticides are known to reduce fertility in both male and female bees and this is especially troubling because exposed bee populations can become skewed to a higher ratio of male bees, who have short lifespans and are unable to lay eggs. Gardeners and farmers should avoid neonic pesticides (see this list), which can persist in the yard and become taken up by plant tissues.