Native Bees and Other Pollinators

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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, ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • The forgotten wasp

    When I posted the photos from Andrew Hogg yesterday, I somehow overlooked this one. So here is it, front and center. [caption id="attachment_12039" align="aligncenter" width="717"] A ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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, 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 ...

  • 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 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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]

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 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 ...

  • 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. ...

  • How to move a bumble bee nest

    The first question to ask yourself is this: Must you actually move the bumble bee nest? Is such a drastic measure really necessary? Consider: [list icon="plus"] Bumble bees ...

  • 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 ...

  • Bee on red huckleberry

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

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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]

  • When should I put my mason bees outside?

    Good question. If you are keeping mason bees in cold storage—whether in a garage, shed, or refrigerator—it is time to get them outside. Although conditions ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • Lasioglossum on Claytonia

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

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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. ...

  • 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. ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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]

  • 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 ...

  • Bumble bee on herb-robert

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

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • Bumble bee defecation

    I came across this on Wikimedia while I was researching something else. The photographer describes it as, "Slowed down footage of a bee squirting a ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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, ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • Bumble bee on goldenrod

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

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • Native bees are disappearing across the globe

    Last week someone said to me, “Native bees don’t get colony collapse disorder, so it’s hard to believe they’re in trouble too.” Unfortunately, native bees ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • Looking for lunch

    [caption id="attachment_11429" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Bumble bee landing.[/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 ...

  • 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. ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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]

  • 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 ...

  • 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" ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 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 ...

  • 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 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 ...

  • 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, ...

  • 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 ...