Native Bees and Other Pollinators

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • Pollinators on clematis

    Yesterday I saw these two little guys on the fall-flowering clematis just as the sun was setting. They look like a type of fly, but ...

  • Bumble bee on goldenrod

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

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • Is there a way to feed wild bees?

    It's my turn to ask questions, and I have a few of them lined up. This first one just came from a reader in Texas ...

  • Wednesday wordphile: scopa

    While honey bees have pollen baskets (corbiculae) in which to carry pollen back to the hive, many native bees carry pollen on the underside of ...

  • A beekeeper’s winter “to do” list

    No, you cannot sit back and relax. Now is the time to get ready for next bee season! And bee-lieve me, there is plenty to ...

  • 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 ...

  • The logistics of pollen

    All bees have one thing in common: they use pollen and nectar to feed both themselves and their young. However, the best way to bring ...

  • Take the pollinator challenge

    We beekeepers are often blind-sided by our love of honey bees. We, and especially the press, tend to equate the word "bee" with "honey bee." Last ...

  • Lasioglossum on Claytonia

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

  • 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, ...

  • 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]

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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, ...

  • Tips for planting a pollinator garden

    When planting a pollinator garden, keep in mind that pollinators need food during the entire growing season. Although some species live only a few weeks, ...

  • 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 ...

  • Bee on red huckleberry

    [caption id="attachment_13035" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Small native bee on red huckleberry flower. © Rusty Burlew[/caption]

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • Anise is an all-time bee favorite

    Yesterday a reader, Harold Owen, commented on my post “Five Favorite Plants for the Bee Garden” by saying that anise is an excellent bee attractant. ...

  • On a wing and a prairie

    I wanted to say more about the mining bees I discovered last week. According to my sources at BugGuide.net this bee is in the genus ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • Results of the bee quiz

    Congratulations! Many of you really know your bees! Some even got a perfect score. Although the quiz is still up, here are the results after ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • Native bee forage: bird's eyes

    Bird's eyes (Gilia tricolor) is a perfect plant for your pollinator garden, planter box, rockery, or roadside. This annual plant is native to California, but ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • A bully of a bumble

    Last August I was watching this little native bee through the lens. She was hanging onto a thistle with her two front legs while she ...

  • Bees and their families

    Nothing has stirred up taxonomic relationships faster than genetic analysis. Relationships between species—both plant and animal—have been turned upside down. Some relationships that were “set ...

  • Bumble bee on piggy-back plant

    Piggy-back plant, also known as youth-on-age, is a delicate little woodland plant in the saxifrage family. The species, Tolmiea menziesii, is native to the Pacific ...

  • 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 ...

  • Nomada bee loafing in the park

    Milton-Freewater, Oregon has a great little town park with a playground, swimming pool, and a steep trail leading up a hill that overlooks miles of ...

  • A chair with a buzz

    The Adirondack chair, below, is in my yard. A close-up of one of the screw holes shows that a mason bee decided it was a ...

  • A tiny pole dancer

    A girl's gotta earn a living somehow. This little bee, probably a sweat bee in the genus Lasioglossum, has taken to dancing around the filaments ...

  • 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 ...

  • Just hanging out

    Once I began stalking honey bees with a camera, I became more and more enamored of insects in general. First I shot only honey bees, ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • Bumble bee with mixed pollen

    As beekeepers we are used to seeing pollen pellets of a solid color. This is due to the famous "floral fidelity" of honey bees. It ...

  • 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. ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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, ...

  • Native pollinator: wool carder bee

    Anthidium is the genus name for the very large group of bees that contains the wool carders. Wool carders are known as such because the ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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. ...

  • Bees that attack honey bees

    Earlier this week, Lisa from Oregon wrote to say that some really aggressive black and yellow bees were injuring the honey bees that came to ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • Cat on a Mason Bee Condo

    One morning this spring I went outside ready to take photos of mason bees coming and going from the bee condo. What I found there ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • Angelina lips

    [caption id="attachment_11791" align="aligncenter" width="655"] Halictus rubicundus © Rusty Burlew[/caption] Okay, maybe not. This is, after all, a male bee. In this species, the yellow face and ...

  • 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, ...

  • The real estate market heats up

    [caption id="attachment_1216" align="aligncenter" width="682" caption="Vacancy rate drops for native bees. Photo by the author."][/caption]

  • 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 ...

  • Lekking for love

    A lek is a gathering of male animals where the males parade around, showing off their best features to their female admirers. By marking her ...

  • 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 ...

  • Wednesday wordphile: floral fidelity

    Although honey bees are polylectic, which means they visit many different species of flowering plants, they also exhibit floral fidelity, which means that a bee ...

  • Invasion of the hover flies

    According to several sources, Great Britain is being invaded by hordes of hover flies. We in the Pacific Northwest are seeing our fair share as ...

  • Melissodes sleeping in a thistle

    You might think sleeping in a flower would be a dream come true, yet for many bees, it is simply a fact of life. But ...

  • Bumble bee on herb-robert

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

  • 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 ...

  • 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 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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]

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • Mason bees fill up their nests

    No Vacancy at the mason bee condo It took them awhile, but the entire condo is filled--as well as the tubes they hatched from. A ...

  • Ten ways to help the bees, starting today

    Humans are so intimidated by insects that we continually try to eradicate them even while we mourn the loss of biodiversity in other species. But ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • Five favorite plants for the bee garden

    Since this is the season when gardening catalogs flood my mailbox, I can’t help but think about next year’s pollinator garden. My five favorite pollinator ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • Joe-Pye weed for the pollinator garden

    Joe-Pye weed, Eutrochium purpureum, is a tall perennial plant in the Asteraceae family that is well-known for its ability to attract butterflies and other pollinators ...

  • Honey bee forage: curlycup gumweed

    Curlycup gumweed is a plant native to North America that attracts a variety of wild pollinators as well as honey bees. The name “gumweed” refers ...

  • How to attract bees to your garden

    Here are eight simple ways to attract more bees—both native bees and honey bees—to your garden.[list icon="plus"] Plant species that bloom in sequence. Just like any ...

  • And I thought bumbles were big

    What looks like a combination of a bumble bee and a hummingbird and a skipper? I certainly didn’t know as I began taking photos of ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...