Native Bees and Other Pollinators

  • A journalist's bumble

    I was scanning my news feed yesterday when I saw an interesting headline, "The Most Fascinating Facts About Mason Bees." I eagerly clicked on the ...

  • Milkweed surfaces as a green alternative

    After I wrote about milkweed fairies, I received the following story in an e-mail. Although I had read about this practice, I never knew of ...

  • Homes for the underground majority

    Most of us who want to attract native bees to our yards and gardens do so by providing housing in the form of tubes, straws, ...

  • Cockerell's bumble bee makes a comeback

    In late August of this year, along a weedy stretch of highway north of Cloudcroft, New Mexico, three bumble bees were plucked from the side ...

  • Putting the squeeze on mason bees

    Talk about claustrophobia. Just looking at this bee gives me the heebie-jeebies. Conventional wisdom says a blue orchard mason bee (Osmia lignaria) likes a 5/16th-inch ...

  • Bee flies require a second look

    A lot of honey bees have been working the oregano in the last few weeks, but one day I noticed a bee that didn’t look ...

  • Wednesday wordphile: ocellus (plural: ocelli)

    An ocellus is a simple eye having a single lens. This type of eye does not form an image but acts as a photo receptor, ...

  • Pollen tramps I have known: Isabella

    When I began my search for the trampiest ladies in town, the bees sent me to a stand of thistle adjacent to the appaloosa club. ...

  • Native bee forage: California lilac

    I first learned about this plant several years ago when I was visiting the dentist. In front of his office was a gorgeous bush covered ...

  • What bumble bee is this?

    Can anyone identify this bumble bee? The photo was taken March 24 in western Washington in a garden patch of Vinca minor. [caption id="attachment_280" align="aligncenter" width="717" ...

  • Pollinator party

    Beekeeper Andrew Hogg sent me the following photos. He says: I got some great pics with my macro last August while a pollinator party was going ...

  • Bumble bee on cherry laurel

    My camera was trained on honey bees in the cherry laurel when this little bumble bee-bopped into view. I like the orange of her abdomen ...

  • An unwelcome visitor to the mason bees

    This guy crawled out of one of the mason bee tubes today as I was watching. He was probably stealing provisions and eggs. Unfortunately for ...

  • Save that bird nest!

    The problem with bumble bee boxes is getting the bees to move in. Depending on the type of house and the location, average occupancy rates ...

  • Can anyone identify this bee?

    Update June 25: According to Kathy Keatley Garvey and Dr. Robbin Thorp at UC Davis, this is a small metallic sweat bee in the genus ...

  • Bumble bees are not just for killing

    When you run a website like mine you get to see a daily report of what people typed in the little search box that landed ...

  • A face only a mother could love

    I recently found this ugliness on a red huckleberry bush. I have never seen such a thing in my life, and I managed one quick ...

  • Update to "Bumble bees are not just for killing"

    A friend of mine from the east coast wrote to straighten me out on bumble bees. He said that when he used to till his ...

  • Lasioglossum on Claytonia

    [caption id="attachment_11345" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Hmm . . . that one looks better. © Rusty Burlew[/caption]

  • Bumble burger

    [caption id="attachment_12115" align="aligncenter" width="717"] This bumble bee got snagged by a crab spider. Not only is the spider camouflaged, but she's tucked beneath the petals ...

  • Bumble bee on herb-robert

    [caption id="attachment_11349" align="aligncenter" width="800"] © Rusty Burlew[/caption]

  • How to make an awesome nesting block

    The conventional wisdom about nesting blocks is that you take a 5/16-inch bit and drill holes that are roughly 5-10 inches long. This will attract ...

  • Pollinators are not going to change, so we have to

    It is easy to blame the loss of bee habitat on “them”—them being industrial farms, expansive orchards, sprayed fields, and freeways kept neat with herbicides. ...

  • A photo from the underground

    Spring is the season for digging: gardeners do it, moles do it, even bees do it. Two weeks ago, Carrie Dunn of Seattle was working ...

  • Where do bumble bees go in winter?

    Do bumble bees fly south? Hibernate? Keep themselves warm like honey bees? Why don't we see them flying around on a warm winter day? Even though ...

  • Hardy kiwis attract many kinds of bees

    Several years ago I planted two arguta kiwis—one male and one female (Actinidia arguta). Today these have turned into huge plants, looping over the garden ...

  • It's time for pollinator habitat

    There's a place in front of my top-bar hive where I back my truck and turn around. I was doing that yesterday, having just retrieved ...

  • Plant a garden and they will come

    I spent a few days last week visiting my daughter who lives in Issaquah, a bustling suburb of Seattle. Ironically, she was never much of ...

  • Native bees should not be managed like farm animals

    Talk of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) tends to bring out two groups of extremists—the group that believes the demise of honey bees will completely destroy ...

  • For the love of bees

    I used to be a respectable member of society, but now, not so much. For one thing, I carry test tubes in my pocketses ("What ...

  • A butterfly emerges

    A few weeks back, Nan at Shady Grove Farm in Kentucky sent in a photo of a monarch caterpillar preparing to pupate. Unfortunately she missed ...

  • Bumble bee on goldenrod

    [caption id="attachment_12363" align="aligncenter" width="648"] A late-summer bumble bee on goldenrod. © Rusty Burlew[/caption]

  • Lions and tigers and bears, oh my

    As I knelt beside a Ceanothus, eager to photograph bumble bees, I was distracted by a little black fly. But when the tiny creature bustled ...

  • On a wing and a prayer

    [caption id="attachment_11932" align="aligncenter" width="717"] A late summer bumble bee on a late-blooming blackberry. Photo © Rusty Burlew.[/caption] We know that honey bee workers live an average ...

  • A lewd and lascivious swim in the soup

    You'd think my backyard was some kind of bee bordello. Behind my house, a large group of male mason bees is hovering, darting, circling and ...

  • Cuckoo sweat bee

    Cuckoo bees are called “cuckoo” because they don’t forage for pollen to feed their young. Instead, they steal it. Female cuckoo bees hang around the ...

  • Mason bee condo filling up

    Although I haven't actually seen many mason bees around, it is easy to see they've been hard at work. This mason bee condo was empty ...

  • How to attract bumbles to an artificial nest

    If you’ve made or purchased a bumble bee box, you are probably wondering where to put it and how to attract tenants. I’ve scanned dozens ...

  • Russian sage for your pollinator garden

    Perovskia, also known as Russian sage, is a popular xeriscape[1] plant that is not from Russia, nor is it a sage. However, everything about Russian ...

  • Berry busy berry bee

    Here is a creature to add to your native bee list. Osmia aglaia is a small (about 3/8-inch long) metallic-green bee that is native to ...

  • Goldenrod: a late-summer feast for the bees

    Goldenrod is one of those plants that everyone knows, but no one can identify—or so it seems. The genus Solidago—to which all the goldenrods belong—is ...

  • Make room for mason bees

    My first shipment of orchard mason bees arrived in shiny little tubes that look like drinking straws, packed in a box that weighs next to ...

  • The seven families of bees

    Since the advent of gene mapping, the classification of bee species has changed. Just a few years ago there were eleven families of bees, then ...

  • How's your bee IQ?

    If you are anything like me, January finds you eagerly awaiting the appearance of foraging honey bees. But for most of us, other kinds of ...

  • Alkali bees, the alfalfa specialists

    Honey bees aren't always the best bug for the job, and that is certainly the case when it comes to pollinating alfalfa. Honey bees do ...

  • Pollinator-friendly plants

    At the request of a friend I just posted a list of pollinator-friendly plants. It’s in the left column of this site, just beneath the ...

  • Let mining bees be

    Right now, everyone wants to kill mining bees. Well, they don’t say “kill,” they say “get rid of.” It’s all the same. So, what is a ...

  • A garden gem

    Berry bees, Osmia aglaia, amaze me because they appear brilliant blue or green depending on the light. Sometimes, they reflect both at once. Since they are ...

  • How to build a bee block

    Of all the bees native to North America, about 30% use some kind of tunnel in which to lay their eggs. The diameter of the ...

  • What's in there?

    This is one of those photos I didn't know I had until I was reviewing the day's pics on the computer. I love the way ...

  • Is there an environment the EPA actually protects?

    Much has been written in recent weeks about the unconditional EPA registration of the neonicotinoid clothianidin in spite of insufficient testing. Many classes of wildlife ...

  • Bumble bees hibernate, honey bees do not

    Although honey bees and bumble bees are closely related, their winter behavior is very different. A colony of honey bees will live throughout the entire winter, ...

  • Pheasants Forever provides bee habitat

    Pheasants Forever, a non-profit conservation organization founded in Minnesota in 1982, promotes “the protection and enhancement of pheasants, quail and other wildlife populations” through its ...

  • A pair of bees

    Too busy to write, I decided it's time for a photo post. The bee on the left is your average-size bumble bee. The one on ...

  • Pollinators smile and say cheese

    I admire folks who can take good insect pictures. Regardless of the equipment you have, they are extremely difficult to do. Yesterday I noticed a tiny ...

  • Bombus vosnesenskii

    [caption id="attachment_13321" align="aligncenter" width="600"] This yellow-faced bumble bee showed up on March 24 near Olympia, WA. Photo © Rusty Burlew.[/caption]

  • The Great Sunflower Project continues to grow

    In case you haven’t heard about it, The Great Sunflower Project is an on-going survey of pollinators in North America that uses “citizen scientists” to ...

  • What's all the hype?

    "So what's all the hype about pollinators, anyway? Doesn't pollination just happen?" This question comes up frequently. Prior to the mid-1940s most pollination did "just ...

  • Is a solitary bee a mason bee?

    Confusion surrounding solitary bees seems to be getting worse. Recently, I ran into an acquaintance in a local supermarket. The conversation went something like this: “Hey ...

  • Bees that bring a tear to your eye

    An article at the Discover Magazine website describes how tiny sweat bees sit on the rim of human eyes and drink tears. According to the ...

  • Foraging habits of different types of bees

    Bees may be grouped into three categories based on their foraging habits. Bees that prefer only a small number of flowering species are known as ...

  • Mites on a bumble bee

    Yesterday I spent some time deleting photo files from my computer. I was just about to trash this one when I saw two odd-looking dots ...

  • Stingless beekeeping in Mexico

    Gwen of the Bug Girl's Blog has written a neat little story in Wired Science about the native Mexican stingless bee, Melipona beecheii. "Women Work to ...

  • Mason bee on the wing

    [caption id="attachment_13343" align="aligncenter" width="600"] This male mason bee had enough of the paparazzi. He's cute, though, even from the back end. © Rusty Burlew.[/caption]

  • Nomada bees: the home invasion specialists

    About twenty percent of all bee species in North America don't bother to collect pollen. It's not that they don't need pollen for raising their ...

  • Tiny bee builds flower-petal nests

    Scientists in Turkey and Iran recently discovered a tiny bee that uses flower petals to build nest capsules. The bee, Osmia avoseta, uses only the ...

  • Wednesday word file: sonication

    Sonication—also known as buzz pollination—is a method that some bees use to release pollen from stubborn flowers. Plants such as tomato, potato, blueberry, and cranberry ...

  • Cosmos: a multipurpose bee flower

    I planted two different types of pollinator seed mixes this year, not for the bees to tear up, but to provide pollen and nectar. Both ...

  • Pollinators on the night shift

    Nocturnal pollination is something I seldom think about, but this fascinating article by Paul Manning at Poky Ecology describes a host of nighttime pollinators in ...

  • In search of creepy crawlies

    Yesterday, as I stood next to a neighboring field, I realized I could hear individual bees. When you spend time with bees, you learn to ...

  • Bumble bee on vinca

    I don't know one bumble bee from another, but this one was striking. The bright band of orange shone in the sun from across the ...

  • Mason bees waiting for sunshine

    I finally put out my tubes of mason bees about two weeks ago. Last year at this time, the mason bees were flying and the ...

  • Chocolate is not pollinated by bees

    Like mushrooms on the forest floor, new pollinator charities pop up every week. About a month ago, one of these nascent groups asked if I ...

  • Can a Texas bluebonnet change its spots?

    Texas bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) are prolific in the early spring and are known for attracting an array of native bees as well as honey bees. ...

  • Bumble bee on azalea

    I've been worried about the native bees. So far this spring we've had very few nice days, and I haven't seen many native bees. Today, ...

  • Dropping in for a visit

    This morning I hiked into the Capitol Forest to photograph bees. I found a few, but nothing I didn't expect. Several species of Bombus and ...

  • And now . . . chimney bees

    Nothing is more exciting than a new bee, so when these photos arrived from Louisiana beekeeper Robert Lunsford, I was immediately enthralled. The photos are ...

  • A mason bee condo won't "save the bees"

    If you want to save the mammals, you could adopt a pig. Although it sounds like fun, adopting a pig won’t save endangered mammals such ...

  • Hover flies pollinate flowers and eat aphids

    Many of our native pollinating insects are not bees. Included in this group are the hover flies, also known as syrphid flies, flower flies, or ...

  • Andrena bee

    Every few days I have a new favorite bee, and today the light of my life is Andrena prunorum. I just received positive identification from ...

  • Who’s to blame, masons or carpenters?

    When I was a kid my mom waged war on carpenter bees. She had purchased a circular picnic table made from thick redwood boards. The ...

  • What is chiropterophily?

    Chiropterophily is pollination of plants by bats. Bat pollination is most common in tropical and desert areas that have many night-blooming plants. Just like bees ...

  • Fifteen ways to attract pollinators to your yard

    Here are fifteen easy ways to assure you will have a plentiful supply of pollinators all season long. Although we're half way through summer, it's ...

  • Monarch butterflies are losing habitat

    One of our most endangered pollinators in not a bee at all, but a butterfly. The monarch—a name nearly synonymous with “butterfly” in North America—is ...

  • Mason bee covered in mites

    I try to remain vigilant for mason bee mites and I use recommended control measures for limiting their impact on the few mason bees I ...

  • Mining bees are wild bees that live underground

    Once you start studying the pollinators in your garden, you will see many different types. If you start recognizing some of your visitors, you will ...

  • Hover fly on Agastache

    Hover flies are true flies, not bees. Flies have one pair of wings, and bees have two. If you can get them to hold still ...

  • Do bumble bees hibernate or estivate?

    Bumble bees queens hibernate. According to the Miriam-Webster site, hibernate means "to pass the winter in a torpid or resting state; especially : to pass ...

  • Pollinator walls, bee towers, and insect hotels

    It seems that everyone is building for the bees these days, from private citizens, to transportation departments, to architectural design firms. The proliferation of bug ...

  • Native pollinators: bumble bees

    When I think of cartoon insects, I think of bumble bees. They invariably have bold black and yellow stripes, wide bodies, and a big smile ...

  • Tiny bee loses her pollen

    You think pollen collecting is simple, right? But no, like everything else in life it has discouraging moments. Here a little Lasioglossum bee decides to ...

  • Plant a pollinator-friendly plant for Earth Day

    If you live in the states, the Pollinator Partnership has a website where you can get information about pollinator-friendly plants that will grow in your ...

  • The leafcutter bee: nature's hole punch

    [caption id="attachment_13215" align="aligncenter" width="600"] A leafcutter bee in western Washington. © Rusty Burlew[/caption] The bee in the photo is a leafcutter or leafcutting bee in the ...

  • What to do with all that tongue?

    The woodland skipper, Ochlodes sylvanoides, is a common pollinator of late summer and early fall. It can be identified easily by its brown and orange ...

  • Andrena mining bees

    About a week ago, my friend Glen asked if I wanted to see an underground aggregation of bees. Of course I did! I was elated, ...

  • Newly hatched mason bee

    [caption id="attachment_262" align="aligncenter" width="526" caption="Emerged today, March 24. Notice the three small eyes atop its head. Photo by the author."][/caption]

  • Alkali bees face death by highway

    The Touchet Valley in eastern Washington is home to the largest population of managed alkali bees anywhere on earth. If you have never met an ...

  • Wednesday word file: pollination saturation

    Pollination saturation is the practice of flooding a crop with an overly-large number of honey bee colonies in order to assure adequate pollination. The practice is ...

  • Trekking for pollinators

    Here's my newest crazy project: I want to learn which native pollinators visit which native plants in my local forests. So far, I've spent a ...