Many sweet little bees are solitary. They have no hive to return home to, nor hive mates to keep them company.
There are around 4,000 species of bees in North America and of those over 90% are solitary. Of these numbers, it is reported that 70% of solitary bees live in ground nests and 30% nest in cavities or tunnels.
Adding native flowering plants to your garden provides food for those bees. Make sure to leave some bare soil areas wide open for these underground nest building bees.
A messy garden is much more attractive, and safer, for solitary bees. Instead of throwing out plant clippings and fallen leaves, let them sit a while. Dry, pithy, and hollow plant stems make perfect homes for solitary bees. As they dig in and make themselves at home, tossing out such garden waste could mean you are throwing out bee eggs, larvae, and pupae, and that would be tragic.
If you care about the pollinators in your garden, it is best not to use any broad-spectrum chemicals and pesticides at all. If you are reluctant to stop spraying, please try to restrain yourself at least while bees are foraging.
This 4:22-minute video by chicagobotanicgarden demonstrates how to build a solitary bee condo:
To make sure the solitary bee residents in your garden have a good home, you can create a home for them, called a bee hotel or bee condo. By doing this you give nature a helping hand and ensure the bee can lay her eggs in a secure location.
Bee hotels can be bought and even rented now. We recently posted about a company with a great bee and bee hotel rental program. If you prefer to do it yourself as a weekend project, check hardware stores, nurseries, bee supply companies or online retailers. Buy supplies from the hardware store. Click here to view a wonderful ‘how to’ that is available from the Nebraska Extension.
If you buy a bee hotel instead of making it, be sure to consider some important facts.
If tunnel holes are bigger than 1/4 inch in diameter, the depth of the hole should be 5 to 6 inches. Female bee eggs are always placed far back to ensure survival of the species, and male eggs are near the front, emerging into the unknown world first. So, depth really matters.
Keep the bee condo clean and know that the wood blocks, reeds, and straws inside the holes need to be replaced every few years. This helps bees stay healthy. It is easy for the garden owner to replace the reeds inside the holes.
High density living accommodations always bring a higher potential of pathogenic diseases, just like in honeybee hives.
This is just another way you can help save bees, this time putting the focus on solitary bees instead of honeybees. They are a fascinating bunch of insects, and just as important to the environment and to humanity as the honeybee.