LEARN: 1. What Are Native Bees?


1.5 Get to Know Wild Hole-Nesting Bees

1.5 Get to Know Wild Hole-Nesting Bees

Support Wild Native Bees

Chances are, your backyard is home to a variety of wild hole-nesting bees and beneficial wasps. Related to bees, beneficial wasps are also solitary garden companions who help to keep your insect population in the right balance. Integrated pest management programs raise or support wasps to naturally control pest populations. Wild hole-nesting bees and wasps come in many shapes and sizes and they all have their favorite food sources and seasons of activity.

Native bees are not alternatives to honey bees because they are the original and best pollinators of our gardens and wild places. We hope to see a shift towards acknowledging the important role that wild native bees play in pollination. Wild bees are also struggling with diseases, pests, chemicals, and habitat loss. We can support wild bees by providing nesting habitat, observe their nesting habits, and raise them to stop them from facing extinction.

In the wild, native hole-nesting bees nest inside of standing dead trees, fallen logs, and broken grasses and hollow stems. Wild nesting habitats can be missing from our yards and your bee hotel or bee house can give wild bees and wasps the nesting habitat they need. Watch the wild bees, take photos and notes, and help us get to know our wild native bees and beneficial wasps.

You can add what you learn from observing your wild bee house and participate in our Native Bee Network program. The Native Bee Network is a nationwide collaboration to find hole-nesting bees, learn their characteristics, and raise them in local farms, orchards, and gardens.

Why Support Wild Bees:

  • Get to know your local native bee species.

  • Ensure or improve pollination of your garden and wild places.

  • Provide vital missing nesting habitat for bees.

  • Help other gardeners learn how to care for their local bees.

Wild Bee Characteristics:

  • Better acclimated to thrive in your backyard

  • Carry pollen on their bellies, stocky hind legs, or in a crop (masked bees)

  • Fly short distances in their daily search for flowers

  • Minimum daytime temps above 50F/10C (each species has their preference)

  • Need a range of 4-10mm nesting hole sizes

  • Gather natural nest-building material for protective walls or cocoons: leaves, mud, pebbles, tree sap, plant fuzz, etc.

  • May build cocoons or overwinter as exposed larvae

  • Hibernate over the fall and winter as larvae or adult bees

  • Produce single or multiple generations per season

Observations of the visitors to your bee hotel or bee house can help us get to know the wild native bees and beneficial wasps of your backyard. Below is a growing list of the common names of frequent bee house guests.

  • Wild hole-nesting bees: mason bees, leafcutter bees, carpenter bees, resin bees, wool carder bees, blueberry mason bee.

  • Hole-nesting beneficial wasps: grass-carrying wasp, aphid hunter wasp, mud wasp.

Topic Completion

What Are Native Bees?