Posts Tagged: leafcutter bees
"Go native" with native bees, that is.
A bee condo is a block of wood drilled with specially sized holes for nesting sites. Bees lay their eggs, provision the nests, and then plug the holes. Months later, the offspring will emerge.
In our backyard, we provide bee condos for BOBs (short for blue orchard bee) and leafcutter bees.
In the summer it's fun watching the leafcutter bees snip leaves from our shrubbery and carry them back to their bee condo. It's easy to tell the nesting sites apart: BOB holes are larger and plugged with mud, while the leafcutter bee holes are smaller and plugged with leaves.
Osmia lignaria, a native species of North America, is sold commercially for use in orchard crop pollination.
If you want to learn how to build them or where to buy them, Thorp has kindly provided a list of native bee nesting site resources on the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility website. You can also purchase them at many beekeeping supply stores. (Also check out the Xerces Society's website information.)
Better yet, if you'd like to learn more about native bees and their needs, be sure to register online for the Pollinator Gardening Workshop on Saturday, March 15 on the UC Davis campus. Hosted by the California Center for Urban Horticulture, it begins at 7:30 a.m. in Room 1001 of Giedt Hall and ends at 2 p.m. with a plant sale at the UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery and a tour of the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus. For the small fee of $40 you'll receive a continental breakfast and box lunch and return home with an unbee-lievable wealth of knowledge. Speakers will include several honey bee and native bee experts: native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp; pollination ecologist Neal Williams and Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen. See the complete list on the website.
You'll be hearing from Robbin, Neal and Eric, but you'll be thinking about BOB.
Leafcutting bees heading home to their condo. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, shows Danielle Wishon of the California Department of Food and Agriculture a bee condo. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Blue orchard bees on display at the Bohart Museum of Entomology. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of bee nesting sites shown March 2 at the Bohart Museum of Entomology. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
You can't always choose your tenants.
Sometimes they choose you.
Take the case of our two bee condos, which are blocks of wood drilled with holes for native bee occupancy. One, with the smaller holes, is for leafcutter bees (Megachile spp.) The other, with the larger holes, is for blue orchard bees (Osmia lignaria), fondly known as BOBs.
The leafcutter bees were the first to occupy the bee housing. At one time we had 16 leafcutter bees and one earwig.
The blue orchard bee condo now has three tenants: two BOBs and one spider.
The webweaving spider spun its web and then crawled into the hole for the night to wait for morning.
And to wait for unsuspecting prey.
(Like to learn more about bee condos? See the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility website, UC Davis. Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, compiled the list of resources.)
Webweaver spun a web and then crawled into the mason bee condo to occupy a hole. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of webweaving spider occupying space in the bee condo. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
That's how many tenants are occupying our wooden bee block, aka "bee condo."
It's "home, sweet home" for leafcutting bees (Megachile spp.).
Daily we see these native bees tear holes in leaves (red bud, rose, catmint, gold coin, rock purslane and nectarine) and gather the fragments to line their nests.
Folks who grow prize-winning roses--the kind that win blue ribbons at county fairs and rose shows--aren't fond of these little critters, but we are.
Especially when we see two leafcutters at the bee condo at the same time...
Two leafcutting bees (Megachile spp.) at their bee condo. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Leafcutter bee sipping nectar from a rock purslane. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)