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Solitary Bees

Prior to 1644, when honeybees traveled on sailing ships to North America, there were no human managed bees colonies in the United States.  As early as 250 BC the Mayans were keeping a stingless bee, Melipona.  But, the northern climates were not suitable for them.  We know there had to be pollination going on.  Permaculture always asks, “How did nature solve the problem?”  The answer was solitary bees, often referred to as “Native Bees”.   Now that human managed honey bee colonies are in crisis, solitary bees and other native pollinators (bats, butterflies, birds, beetles and small mammals) may be our only hope.

Of all the bee species, over 90% are solitary bees. Female solitary bees prepare their own nest in the ground, in cracks or crevices in walls, or in wood. They gather nectar and pollen as food for their own offspring, and provide little or no further care after their eggs are laid.  They come in many different sizes, colors and shapes. Common solitary bees are mason bees, plasterer bees, digger bees, sweat bees and carpenter bees. They vary in color from basic black to bright metallic green, blue or red. And some solitary bees superficially resemble wasps.

Solitary bees rarely sting, not having a hive to protect, and can be encouraged by providing water, mud for packing their eggs in their nest, and nesting tubes such as hollowed reeds in clusters, and wood stumps. In our permaculture gardens and orchards, we strive to assure solitary bee habitat is created. And these creatures are a perfect urban “livestock” to encourage. Follow links below to get started.