Insect boxes

Recently we erected three insect boxes as a way of encouraging beneficial insects (particularly solitary bees) to nest in the area. One of these boxes was a bee hotel.

Bee hotels are places for solitary bees to make their nests. These bees live alone, not in hives. They do not make honey. Solitary bees are much less likely to sting than honeybees because they aren’t defending a hive.

Solitary bees lay their eggs in small holes. You can tell bees are using your hotel when they make a mud “door” to cover the entrance hole. This means a female bee has laid an egg inside. After the bee hatches, it will eat a supply of pollen until it is ready to break through the mud and fly away.
Solitary bees are different from social bees (such as honey bees) in that every female is fertile and makes individual nest cells for her offspring. Some native bees are ground nesters but more than 30% are wood nesters. The female wood nester will look for pre-existing cavities such as hollow stems or holes in wood that are just the right size to use as a nest.

The female typically creates a series of compartments (cells) and within each cell she will lay an egg on top of its future food source. The female bee will make numerous trips to flowers collecting pollen and nectar that she will pack into each cell. On these trips, the female wild bee pollinates plants and food crops. It can take anywhere from 20 to 30 trips to fill each cell with food.

When she is satisfied with the amount of food, she lays an egg, compartmentalizes the cell, and moves on to creating the next cell. When she feels the chamber is complete, she seals off the end, and moves on to filling a new chamber. The last cells (those closer to the opening) contain eggs that will become males, as males hatch before females.

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