Spring Care for Wild Bees
Wild hole-nesting bees, depending on their season, may start flying soon!
• Springtime wild bees likely spend the winter as fully-formed adults, all they need to do is chew out of their cocoons and fly.
• Summertime wild bees likely hibernate as eggs or as larvae and they will wait for warming summer weather to start to transform into adult bees.
You have two options for taking care of your wild hole-nesting bees.
First, you can harvest wild bee cocoons in the early spring, which requires more time and effort but you will be rewarded with getting to know your wild bee guests. The second option requires less time while still providing wild bees with fresh nesting holes each year.
First Option: Harvesting and Managing Wild Cocoons
Harvesting your wild cocoons (best done in the early spring) will be similar to harvesting your spring mason or summer leafcutter bee cocoons. To harvest cocoons, simply open your nesting materials and remove healthy cocoons, leaving diseases and pests behind.
Unstrap your reusable wood nesting trays, crack the open end of your reeds or unravel your cardboard bee tubes starting at the open end. Remember to try to keep the time the cocoons spend in your warm home to a minimum.
1. Group similar capped end materials together and look closely at the texture of the capped end. Bumpy mud may be from a bee while smooth mud, like cement, may be from a solitary wasp. Leaves can be chewed up or left as large intact circles. The texture of the material is a reflection of the species inside the nesting hole.
2. Open a sample tube and if you find cocoons, continue to open the other similarly capped tubes and keep the similar cocoons together in their own BeeGuard Bag or LeafGuardian Bag. The bags let air through, keep pests out, and let you watch for the emergence of adult bees.
• If you find large exposed larvae or exposed smaller larvae plus their food store (pollen loaf or insect prey), close the tube and follow our guidelines for the second option. We want to allow the developing larvae to wake up when the time is right for them. Large larvae should be about the size of its nesting chamber. (Small larvae that are actively moving are most likely grain moths or meal moths, common pests found in nesting holes.)
• If you are unable to keep the nesting hole intact, place the similar larvae into their own LeafGuardian Bags.
3. Watch for development of cocoons or larvae. Store them in your unheated garage or shed and check once a week for the emergence of adults or signs of development.
• For the large, exposed larvae, you are looking for the stage when they look like a white adult bee with darkening (colored) eyes. The pigment is a sign that the adult bee or wasp is nearing the final stage of development. Watching the exposed larvae (most likely a beneficial solitary wasp or summertime bee) develop is a really great activity to do with children!
4. Set out cocoons into the bee house when you see your first emerging adult bees in your bee bag or container. The rest of the bees will emerge soon and remember to keep cocoons and larvae out of direct sunlight.
Second Option: Moving Day for Native Bees
Another option for taking care of wild bees is to follow our instructions in our Moving Day for Native Bees blog post.
The Moving Day steps are pretty simple and provides wild bees with fresh nesting holes, allowing the healthy bees to leave diseases and pests behind.
The Moving Day technique is also good for loose nesting holes where you found a store of food and a small larva that is waiting to wake up and finish eating. Remember to leave the Moving Day bag or cardboard box out into the warmth of summer so that all wild bees have a chance to emerge.
WILD BEE CARE REMINDERS:
• Always provide fresh nesting holes each year
• Provide the same sized nesting holes that were popular last year
• Take lots of pictures and notes of what you've seen!
• Bee patient as summertime bees or wasps will need warmer weather to cue them to wake up