Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Helping out the bees

I've been hearing a lot about solitary bees lately. Unlike honeybees, they're natives, they don't make honey, and seldom, if ever, sting. The females make nests in twigs, reeds, holes in wood, or tunnels in the ground. They'll lay an egg, put some food in with it, seal it off in its own compartment, lay another egg, and so on. The new bees emerge the following spring.

I'm for doing everything we can to help pollinators. So when I read about setting out tubes for the bees to use as nests, I decided to try it. (Paula Shrewsbury's description and photos in the Maryland Cooperative Extension Weekly Integrated Pest Management report really got me going; see p. 6.)  Here's what John and I came up with.

I ordered the tubes online (basically they're just straws made of heavy paper.) The instructions are to place the tubes off the ground and protect them from rain. John made a nice sheltered holder for the tubes out of a plastic container, and nailed it to the side of our shed. I tied up two sets of straws with cord, and we snugged them tightly into the container.

There are plenty of places that sell the bee tubes, as well as more substantial nesting materials such as wood "houses" with holes drilled in them. Some people just drill holes of different sizes in a piece of firewood. Overall, the tubes seemed quick and simple. (Well, simple now that John has the structure in place!)

The only thing is, I think we're a little late for this season; it sounds like the egg-laying is usually in March and April. But we just put out our setup out a couple of days ago, so we'll see. Meanwhile, I've got a lot to learn about bees. A source that looks interesting: the Xerces Society of Invertebrate Conservation.