Native Bees and Other Pollinators

  • 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]

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • A honey bee, not

    Briefly each spring, this bee fools me into thinking she's a honey bee. For me, the first clue that she's not a honey bee is ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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, ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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, ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • Pollen can carry disease to native bees

    While studying pesticides in pollen, I was always curious about the potential for pollen to carry disease organisms as well. Indeed, a new study that ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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, ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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, ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • Bee on red huckleberry

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

  • Get that camera outta here!

    A sprawling lemon balm grows in the center of my chicken yard, surrounded by bushels of peppermint. Since they don’t care for mint-family plants, the ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • A morning sip of nectar

    [caption id="attachment_4999" align="aligncenter" width="531"] Down the hatch. Bumble bee on goldenrod.[/caption] I have one little patch of goldenrod in front of my house, right next to ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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. ...

  • 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 ...

  • Metallic green bee

    I finally got a photo of a metallic green bee. It turns out these bees are a wee bit camera shy and it took a ...

  • 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 ...

  • Milkweed fairies due for a comeback

    Make a wish, blow it free. What kid in America didn’t grow up chasing milkweed fairies? The hairy white seeds floated, bobbled, and danced across the ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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]

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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, ...

  • Mason bee "menage a trois"

    Caught in the act! This mason bee threesome was photographed by UK beekeeper Philippa Burgess. She got the shot a couple of years ago as ...

  • 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. ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • Bumble bee on goldenrod

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

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • Bumble bee on herb-robert

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

  • 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 ...

  • 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, ...

  • 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]

  • 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 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...