Giving Native Bees Some Love

On April 16th 2016, a few Windsor Park neighbors gathered to build nesting houses for the native bees that work in Fletcher Park’s Native Field.

These houses are intended for solitary native bees (carpenter, mason and leaf cutter). Native bees are super pollinators and evolved in tandem with our native plants. These bees do not live in hives like our native bumble bees or the European honeybee. They create nests for their young in 5-7″ long tunnels, which they create or reuse in trees, houses, hollow stems of plants, fallen branches or brush piles. Each type of bee prefers a different type of tube and has a specific diameter they prefer for their nesting tubes.

Be nesting houses are simple to make (our youngest volunteer is “almost” three). We made the bee houses out of scrap lumber, a random glazed building block pulled from Pogues Run, bamboo, reeds, sticks and the hollow stems of plants at Fletcher Park. The various bees use different diameter holes for their nesting tubes but nearly all prefer a tube approximately 6″ deep, so we made sure to offer them this depth with the drilled holes and stems. The bee houses need to be placed in a sheltered location (fence, building, tree) and bees prefer the houses if they are facing east to south east. As soon as the houses were built, bees began moving in.

The female bee will create individual pods within each tube for each egg. She will clean out the tube and make sure it is the right diameter. Then, she creates a cake out of pollen and nectar, lays an egg and seals that section of tube with mud. This continues with cake/egg/seal until the tube is full. The female bee will lay the female eggs first, at the back of the tube, followed by the male eggs, nearer the opening. This ensures survival of the species as any eggs eaten by opportunistic predators, like woodpeckers, or parasites, like parasitic flies and wasps, will likely be males (sorry guys). The larvae develop over the summer and the bees will remain dormant from fall to early spring, when they emerge to start the cycle all over again.

You can find four of the houses on the east side of the large sycamore in the Native Field. The Native Field is the large planting bed located at the south west corner of the park, at 12th and East Brookside. Right now, the spring bulbs are up and our baby native plants are beginning to emerge.

Observing the bees is entertaining, as they pop in and out of the tubes. One neighbor took video of a bee working a tube the day the houses were made. We hope that other neighbors will visit and observe but not disturb the bees or the plants in the field.