i want to keep bees as a hobby when im older
I myself have always wanted to have an apiary! I’m not sure of your situation but if it’s because you think you live in a too urban space to have them, think again! Where I am originally from you can raise bees in urban spaces…
An even better idea, especially if you live in the US, is to provide nesting material/locations and plant native wildflowers for native bees! Honeybees are not native to the US (in fact, not native to North or South America), and there is evidence that indicates honeybees interfere with native bee populations. Our native bee populations are in decline, and are arguably much more sensitive than honeybee populations. As much as honeybees are in trouble right now, they are in absolutely no danger of dying out. Our native bees are. Because of this, I see absolutely no reason to keep honeybees where they are not needed.
Honey is super delicious and awesome, but in reality, it’s just a happy bonus for honeybees’ real contribution to humans - their pollination services. While honeybees are not native to the US, their pollination services are the reason we can grow enough food to feed ourselves, as native bees are not adapted to handle (even small scale) monocultures.
Side note: I’m not sure about honeybees in urban places. I’m sure it’s difficult to keep honeybees in urban places, and I highly doubt there are large communities of native bees in urban areas.
So, what can you do? The Xerces Society has fantastic information about native pollinator conservation. They also have amazing seed mixes available to purchase based on your region. If you’d rather make your own garden, the Pollinator Partnership has some incredible planting guides based on region to help you design a beneficial garden!
The Xerces Society also has some great information about constructing nests for native bees. Another really really great resource with a bunch of information about lots of different kinds of native bees is from a previous job of mine (last summer, it was so so amazing) at UC Davis, from the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility (they do a whole bunch with native bees, too, trust me).
Please consider all the info and do your own research before you decide to keep honeybees. I hope this post helps, and let me know if you have any questions!
Me and The Bee, or How to Deal with Animals You Are Afraid of →
Today when I got to my apartment, I spotted something next to my door.
It was a rather large bumblebee*. I assume you’re now wondering why there is a picture of a bumblebee on a snake blog. So, I react to bugs in the same negative way that a lot of people react to snakes. And the truth…
Carpenter Bee, Xylocopa, actually. Nonetheless, a good example of how to handle animals you fear
If you’re anywhere on the east coast of the US, I’d be willing to bet this is a Xylocopa virginica. This post is fantastic, and really good advice. You can also just wait until the bee goes away. Bees, especially non-honeybees, are very rarely aggressive. Venom is really metabolically expensive, so bees never really want to sting you! By the way, only honeybees die after stinging you. Their stingers are barbed and stick in skin to make the sting more effective. This is likely due to the fact that honeybees have to defend against giant pesky mammals invading their hives for their honey. Most native bees, on the other hand, are solitary (i.e. don’t form hives) and usually only have to defend against other insect predators and parasites.
Also, pro-tip: this bee is a male, so he doesn’t have a stinger anyway. This is obviously useless information if you don’t know how to tell the difference between male and female bees (in X. virginica, males have huge light-ish eyes and white faces, while females have smaller black eyes and black faces), but the sentiment is the same.
Bombus citrinus- Lemon Cuckoo Bumble Bee
Alright kids, lemme tell you about how rad cuckoo bumblebees (subgenus Psithyrus) are. They differ from other Bombusby lacking corbicula, or pollen basket, on their hind legs. This is because they are far too badass to forage for pollen for their young. They also tend to have very curved abdomens (to house their unusually large stingers, of course) that are a little less hairy than their non-cuckoo cousins.
A female Psithyrus (there are no caste distinctions in cuckoo bumblebees) will emerge in spring and search for a host bumblebee colony. Once she finds a suitable nest, she will enter it, masked by mimicking the colony’s pheromones, and find and kill the queen. She then basically enslaves the workers to feed her and raise her own young.
Parasitic bumblebees. So so cool. This photo is a male.
also! I've been meaning to ask-- I know you study bees, but what are the particulars of your research? anything interesting you can share about bees?
Oh gosh. I’ve done a whole bunch with bees… I’ve helped with several diversity studies, floral resource and body size studies, and pesticide studies (in an agricultural setting); looked at native bees’ role in agricultural pollination; and have done a whooooooole lot of pinning and identifying. I’ve worked with bees from all over Wyoming, Connecticut, and the Central Valley of California. I’ve never studied honeybees, just natives (which I think are far more interesting, call me a bee snob…). I, myself, am particularly interested in plant-bee relationships, and bee taxonomy and systematics, and hope to pursue something of the sort in grad school fairly soon.
Anything interesting?! I could talk about bees for weeks, so I’ll just name a few things. :)
- An estimated 200 species can be found around Laramie alone (and 4,000 species in North America!).
- Bees are incredibly diverse in appearance. There are huge super fuzzy bees (Bombus), smaller super fuzzy bees (Melissodes is a common one around Laramie), teeny tiny wasp-ish bees (Hylaeus), brilliantly metallic slender bright green bees (Agapostemon), robust metallic purplish/blue bees (Osmia), fat little yellow and black bees (Anthidum), super tiny dark metallic bees (Ceratina and some Lasioglossum), and soooo many more!
- Bumblebees are the only native eusocial (i.e. like honeybees) bee in North America. Some sweat bees can be loosely social (the degree to which they are social depends a lot on resource availability). Some ground nesting bees will aggregate into little colonies (which I obviously like to call Bee Towns), but each female has her own nest. Most bees are completely solitary.
- Generally, a native solitary female bee will only lay around 30 eggs in her lifetime, which is an incredibly low number for an insect.
- Bees’ nests also vary a whole bunch. Bumblebees (Bombus) nest underground, sometimes utilizing an abandoned rodent home. Other bees such as Andrena, Colletes, and most Halictids (sweat bees) are also ground nesters. Some bees, like Osmia, will nest in holes they in old stumps, logs, or hollow reeds. Osmia line their nests and form the cells with mud or clay they collect and shape. Megachile (leaf-cutter bees) form their nests from pieces of leaves or petals they clip off with their powerful jaws. Bees like Anthidium like to use plant hairs to line their nests. Xylocopa (carpenter bees, sadly do not live in Wyoming) and Ceratina will bore holes in wood for their nests. While Bombus form brood cells kind of like honeybees, solitary bee nests usually consist of a single tunnel of varying length. The eggs will be laid individually in stacked cells, each provisioned with a lovely pollen ball. When the tunnel is filled, the mama bee will seal off the top and let the babies develop.
- Bees have different ways of collecting pollen. Honeybees and bumblebees have a large concave disk on their hind legs called corbicula that they use to form pollen balls. Most other native bees have specialized hairs called scopa. Scopa are usually long, highly branched hairs that trap pollen. Scopa are usually on the legs of bees, but one family in particular (and my favorite), Megachilidae, has their scopa on the undersides of their abdomens (they wiggle their little butts around on flowers, it is the CUTEST).
- Male bees do not have scopa (but can be fuzzy and definitely still pollinate). Male bees are lazy and only care about feeding themselves and sex. But gosh, are they adorable.
- Some bees, often called cuckoo bees, are kleptoparasitic and do not have scopa. They find their host bees’ nests and lay their own eggs in the already provisioned cells. The host larvae is eaten by either the adult or the larval cuckoo bee. Some genera of western cuckoo bees are Nomada, Triepeolus, Melecta, and Coelioxys. One of the coolest examples of cuckoo bees are a subgenus of Bombus, Psithyrus, but they are so freaking cool they probably deserve their own post…
Okay. That was probably entirely too much for a sane person to read. If anyone has more questions, I can’t guarantee that I’ll know the answer, but I can try!
I’ll leave you with this picture of a Lasioglossum (Dialictus) female that I took a couple years ago. She’s probably about 6ish mm long. :)
Bee Hotels for Solitary Bees
You may be wondering what bees need a hotel for, when they make their own hives. The truth is that many species of bees are solitary – the do not live in hives but instead construct their own nest. The main reason for this is because in these species every female is fertile and this would not make for comfortable communal living in a hive.
Bees you are so cute.
Solitary bees meeting at solitary bee hotels and falling in love
I’ve reblogged this before c’mon.
Bee hotel …
Will always reblog bee hotel and the cuuutest little male Megachile! I really do think it’s my favorite genus…