We Need To Do More–and Learn More–About Our Native Bees

This time of year I give a lot of lectures. And thankfully, one of the garden clubs has hired me to speak about “Gardening for Pollinators.” But while I can find all sorts of things about gardening for butterflies and hummingbirds, and I know more than most human beings should know about ants, there’s very little out there about gardening for bees, unless we’re talking about honeybees.

And while honeybees are nice, I’m much more interested in talking about our native bees, which are also in trouble.  Native bees, unlike honey bees, are often solitary. They do not nest in hives and they are rarely provoked to sting unless some extraordinary circumstance occurs.

The Spoiler was actually stung by a bumblebee once. They nest in cavities in our stone wall. I know this and I am always careful to show him where their nests are. The bees don’t mind in the least if you walk by their nests–they’ll do that “I’m going to fly up in your face to see if I can scare you,” thing but so long as you do nothing about that except continue on about your business, nothing happens.

The Spoiler  got stung because he wasn’t paying attention. He as watering some containers and I can only presume the bee was either going in or coming out and he just kept right on watering.

If you know the Spoiler, you also know that he believes that if a little water is good, a lot of water is better, so he had the host turned up full bore, of course.  Needless to say, the poor bee felt assaulted. What was it to do but sting?

So that’s the sort of circumstance where a native bee might be provoked to sting. As you can tell, it takes a lot.

On Monday, I’ll talk about what little I can find about making our yards habitable for these bees!

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