What's a Solitary Bee?
A lot of people think the world is made up of only honey bees and bumble bees, but honey bees and bumble bees represent only about 2% of the world’s bees. There are over 20,000 species of bees, and most bees fall into a large category called solitary bees. So what does it mean to be a solitary bee?
As the name suggests, solitary bees work alone. There is no hive with thousands of bees working together. Each female solitary bee builds her own nest, collects her own pollen and nectar, and lays her own eggs without any help from other bees. She's the ULTIMATE single mom!
About 70% of solitary bees nest in the ground, while the other 30% nest above ground in hollow plant stems and holes in trees. The above-ground, cavity-nesting bees will even nest in a bee house if you give them holes of the right diameter and depth. For example, a solitary bee called a mason bee will nest in holes about the size of a pencil. A bee house filled with nesting material of the right size makes a perfect home for mason bees.
Solitary bees are not aggressive. The females are too busy building their nest, gathering pollen and nectar, and laying eggs to bother with guarding the nest. You can stand right next to a bee house and watch the bees – no bee suit needed. Male bees don't even have a stinger. Female bees can sting, but rarely do. Their sting is more like a mosquito bite than your average bee sting.
Solitary Bee Fun Facts
Solitary bees work alone, not in large colonies like honey bees.
Solitary bees are not aggressive and do not swarm.
Solitary bees stay close to home, foraging within about 300 feet of their nest.
Each female bee can lay 20 to 30 eggs during her life.
Female solitary bees live about 4-6 weeks; male solitary bees live about 1-2 weeks.
Solitary bees don’t produce honey or wax.
Solitary bees construct the cells in their nest of a variety of materials (mud, leaves, tree resin, plant fibers) depending on species.
Solitary bees are super pollinators – better than honey bees.
Solitary bees need plenty of flowering plants and trees nearby as pollen sources.
Most solitary bees don't get to see their offspring. The females spend their life provisioning food and shelter for their young but don’t see their children emerge.
Bee houses are similar to bird houses, but instead of attracting birds, they are made for solitary bees. Cavity-nesting solitary bees are looking for pre-made holes the right diameter and depth to nest in. If you give them a dry secure bee house with the right sized nesting material, the bees might just decide to move in. We offer three bee house designs for sale:
The Cedar House is made from unfinished cedar that will age to a beautiful silver gray color. The Diamond House and Peek-a-Bee House have a painted overhang roof and stained sides for protection from the elements. Each house comes filled with natural lake reeds as nesting material for the bees. There are a variety of nesting materials available for solitary bees from wood blocks to cardboard tubes, but we prefer to use lake reeds. Solitary bees seem to prefer the varying sizes and shapes of the reeds.
The house is ready to hang using the key hole on the back. Place the house at eye level in an area with some wind protection and face the house toward the morning sun. Solitary bees benefit from the morning sun, since it warms them up so they can fly. You can hang the house on any sturdy support like a wall or post. Make sure the surface is flat and the house is secure and doesn't wobble.
Our specially designed Peek-a-Bee House includes two viewing windows where you can watch the bees at work. Each viewing window has four different-sized channels to entice a variety of solitary bees. You can open the door and watch the bees under the protective glass as they build their nests, gather food for their young, and lay their eggs.