6. How to Raise Wild Bees & Bee Hotels

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6.4 Wait & Watch Bees Fly

6.4 Wait & Watch Bees Fly

The best part of raising wild bees and beneficial wasps is watching them come and go from their bee house. The time you spend watching the bees is not considered a chore!

If you release wild bee cocoons from last year’s harvest, it can take time for bees to return and show signs of nesting. Male bees emerge first and wait nearby for female bees. Female bees need to mate, get to know the area, and come back to claim a nesting hole. Give the bees at least two weeks to get settled.

Pro Tip: Some bee species have a higher dispersal rate than others, this means that you may not see the same types of bees at your bee hotel every year.

After mating, the female will claim a nesting hole and use it as a shelter at night and during poor weather. Starting at the back, the female bee will start by building a nesting chamber and inside she will place a pollen loaf made of pollen and nectar and then lay an egg. The mother bee will either build a protective cocoon or a nest wall to keep each nest chamber safe.

She will repeat these steps until she runs out of space and she’ll add an extra thick protective layer, called a capped end, at the front end of the nesting hole. The nest-building materials used and the texture of the capped end can give us clues to who nested inside. Depending on the weather, it can take several days for a small bee to fill and cap a nesting hole.

Pro Tip: At night, use a flashlight to peer into the nesting holes. Look for bee faces (or bottoms) peering back at you. Female bees at the back of the nesting hole can be hard to see.

Remember to bee patient. Depending on your location, it may take several months to years for nearby wild bees and beneficial wasps to start nesting in your bee hotel.

Sometimes moving the bee house a few feet to a warmer or better location vastly improves nesting. If you chose to move the bee house during bee activity, move it at night to help any nesting female bees reorient to their surroundings in the morning.

Bonus Bees: Many bee species are bivoltine, meaning that they can produce two generations or more per season. Some of the eggs develop quickly and emerge as adults in the same season as they were laid, these are called second-generation bees. Second-generation bees will emerge if the weather is warm enough for long enough. Simply leave your nesting holes in the bee house and second-generation bees should return to nest again.

The evidence of the emergence of second-generation bees is a large hole in capped ends and nest chamber debris. Take note if you discover that your wild bee produced a second generation of bees.

Pro Tip: You can submit your pictures of your wild bee and wasp guests to these identification resources: BugGuide, DiscoverLife, and InsectIdentification.


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