Sunday, March 14, 2010

Beehind Bee of the Month

I purchased a bee calendar through "The Great Sunflower Project" that I have been meaning to share with you. Each month features one of North America's native bees. Who knew there were so many different kinds of bees? Well, since it's March and traditionally calendars begin in January, you get THREE bees for the price of reading one post!

January ...

... featured the Bumble Bee, genus Bombus. Queens emerge in early Spring followed by female workers in late Spring, and finally males.

Bumble bees are ground nesting bees.

Bumble bees are large fuzzy bees usually black with varying patterns of yellow, red or light colored bands. Queens are much larger - over an inch - than female workers or males. Female workers carry pollen in a fringe of stiff hairs in their hind legs also referred to as a 'pollen basket.' Noted to 'buzz pollinate' tomato blossoms, increasing the size and yield of fruit. (I can vouch for this!)

Tomato yield from last summer ... a mix of heirlooms and 'Sweetie' and yellow cherries. 
My tomatoes were abuzz with bumble bees all summer!

You might find bumble bees in your garden if you grow the following: beardtongue, california poppy (I almost wrote poopy - ha!), lavendar, rosemary, or fleabane.

February ...

... featured the Mining Bee, genus Andrena. They also emerge in early Spring and are also ground nesting bees.

Mining bees are mostly dark green or black with elongated abdomens. They carry pollen in the hairs of their behind legs. These pollen-coated hairs appear to be purple or blue (cool). Many Andrena species are oilgoletic (BIG word meaning) - collecting pollen only from a limited range or single genus of plants.

You might find mining bees in your garden if you grow the following: phacelia, gilia, california poppy, suncup.

March ...

... features the Mason Bee, genus Osmia. Mason bees emerge in Spring to early summer. They nest in pre-existing holes in wood constructed with mud or leaves. You can buy mason bee homes (or make your own) to encourage them to nest in your garden, or even buy existing nests to emerge in your garden come Spring!

Example of Mason bee house offered from the Backyard Bird Company. 
Photo from Backyard Bird Company.

Mason bees are small to medium sized displaying metallic or iridescent coloring from green to dark blue. They are much more efficient pollinators than honey bees. Just 250 Orchard Mason bees are needed to pollinate an acre of apple trees that would require 20,000 honeybees!

You might find mason/orchard bees in your garden if you grow the following: catnip, sage, phacelia, gilia, and orchard fruit trees like cherry, apple and pear.

This is a wonderful calendar with fabulous photos and I've quoted from it quite a bit (without permission but figure I am promoting their cause). If another is offered next year be sure to pick it up - not only will you "bee" helping the cause for bees, but there is much to learn! If you plant a pollinator garden (see my last post), "bee" sure (okay, I can't help myself!), to watch for these native bees and more. Not only do they like native plant sources but many varieties of herbs as well. Stay tuned for the next bee of the month!


  1. I really enjoyed this post. I love bees! We have an assortment of them around our place, but my favorite are the bumble bees. They love my columbine. We also have honey bees who built a huge nest in an old oak tree behind our house.

  2. Hi I just happened upon your blog today. I live in SC but moved from NYC and have a cabin still in the North Country. I can't imagine actually trying to garden up at my cabin (the woods takes over everything), but happy to follow you!

  3. Mason bees...that's what I have. I thought they might be some type of mutant that spent too much time by the power plant, with their green shiney bodies! I also didn't know that this is the bee that keeps nesting in the water spout of my pool fountain. The nest is intriguing...looks a bit like rolled cigar leaves. We know because when the fountain turns on, the nest material is pushed out with the water. Now that I know, I will erect a nesting box for them. How fun!

  4. I'm so glad you enjoyed this post! Bees are so interesting. Growing up I never knew there were so many kinds of bees. How lucky to have a honey bee nest! And Kimberly what a great find - the nest in your water spout. And welcome Jess!


Thank you for joining me in my garden in the making!

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