About 140 species of native bees make their homes in preexisting holes and woodpecker drillings; they are naturally drawn to the bamboo tubes in this bee house which faces the morning sun. You can see that female bees have laid eggs in some of these tubes, filled the tubes with nourishment, and sealed off the entrance so the young can grow safely.
A female mason bee, for example, will back into one of these tubes, lay an egg, deposit pollen and nectar (food for when the egg hatches), and build a wall of mud to create a brood cell. She then repeats this process about 10 times, creating a cell for each egg.
Leaf-cutter bees build their egg cells with pieces of leaves. They build multiple egg chambers per nest hole and deposit an egg in each chamber with a bit of pollen, nectar and saliva to nourish the larvae. The varied-sized tubes attract different kinds of bees.
Most of us grew up knowing the names of exotic animals: lions, tigers, panthers, pumas, zebras, sloths . . . animals we are unlikely to encounter in our day to day lives. Yet bees, how many different kinds of bees can we name or identify? Do you know there are more than 4,000 varieties of bees native to North America, and an estimated 200 different bee species right here in New England? They are everywhere and our pollinator garden project is making me realize how much I don’t know! Some live in colonies, some live solitary lives. Some specialize, such as squash bees which only pollinate squash and pumpkins; others are generalists. Some bees are aggressive, others are not. Only females sting; some, with barbed stingers, die when they sting; those with non-barbed stingers may be able to sting multiple times. Will I ever be able to identify a mason bee? A plasterer bee? A carpenter bee or cuckoo bee? I’m working on it! Check out http://www.nativebeesofnewengland.com/bee-diversity.html and add to the varieties you can identify!
Our pollinator garden is flourishing and alive with a variety of bees. How lucky we have been to have kept these towering sunflowers from the resident woodchucks!
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Compared to a bee, a butterfly’s proboscis and legs are longer and farther away from a flower’s pollen; less pollen collects on its body parts than it does on bees, but still they are effective pollinators. And they certainly add to the beauty of our garden as they flit from flower to flower.
Black Swallowtail (photo by Suzanne Church)
Up at dawn, those early-riser squash bees are doing a great job pollinating our many squash plants!