Honey bees have gotten a lot of press lately. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a complaint. I think that learning about their plight has led to a concerted effort by many to help them out.
However, while we hear a lot about the honey bee, we don’t hear much about their vitally important cousin, the wild bee. Unlike wasps, that have developed a taste for whatever we have on our barbeques and can be quite demanding about getting their share, wild bees are gentle creatures. They collect nectar and pollen from flowers, just like honey bees, but they don’t produce any honey.
Except for bumblebees, wild bees don’t live in hives. Rather, they’re solitary. Each female will build her own nest. Most of them are ground nesters, such as the mining bee and the digging bee. They build their nests under leaves and rocks or in sandy soil. The rest are cavity nesters, which include mason, leafcutter and carpenter bees. These bees burrow into hollow stems, holes in wood and even between bricks.
One of the reasons why wild bees are important is that they can be better pollinators than domesticated honey bees. Some are two to three times more efficient and some, like the superstar mason bee, can be up to 80 times more effective at pollination than honey bees are.
You may be wondering why this matters. Well, it’s important because wild bees are facing similar declines in population to honey bees. Threats range from exposure to pesticides and herbicides, loss of habitat, disease and to a changing climate.
Since wild bees don’t live in hives, we can show them some love by making small changes to the way we manage our gardens and green spaces. For example, you can create a wild bee sanctuary in your yard or garden by leaving a sunny patch of bare soil for ground nesters. Add some porous stems, sticks and decaying wood logs for cavity nesters. Just be sure to leave the area undisturbed throughout the winter.
Cities are the perfect haven for wild bees. In order to help them, we need to create vibrant gardens and naturalized green spaces with a variety of wildflowers that bloom from spring to fall. If we create more spaces for them, their populations can be increased and that’s a good thing.
Adapted from an article that appeared on David Suzuki’s site.