Bee-yond Honey Bees

How can you support pollinators in your space?

  1. Provide ample flowering plants that bloom during spring, summer, and fall to ensure maximum support to pollinator communities.
  2. Provide shallow areas with clean water.
  3. Leave areas with undisturbed soil for ground nesting pollinators.
  4. Maintain a small pile of brush or woody material for bumble bees.
  5. Allow dead trees or snags to remain in your space for cavity nesting pollinators.
  6. Turn your outdoor lights off or switch to yellow lights to help nocturnal pollinators.
  7. Minimize the use of herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides
  8. Properly care for any commercial bee hotels you provide. See below for more about this.
bumble bee on dandelion
Photo by Thyra McKelvie
moth on white flower
Photo by Dr. Stephen Robertson

How to Clean Mason Bee Hotels

mason bee at entrance of nest
Photo by Thyra McKelvie
mason bee nest
Photo by Bri Price
mason bee house
Photo by Richard Little

Osmia lignaria, the blue orchard bee, is native Washington State. They are active in early spring, are non-aggressive, and generally pollinate 95% of the flowers they visit. They belong to the family Megachilidae; many species in this family have long hairs on the underside of their abdomens called scopa that collect a plethora of pollen grains as the bees visit flowers.

These mason bees nest in cavities, and use clay soils to make small nest chambers inside the cavity. Each nest chamber is filled with a pollen loaf and one egg. As the egg develops in to a larvae, it will consume the pollen loaf, then spin a cocoon to overwinter. In the spring, bees emerge from the cocoons, and the cycle repeats!

Many pollinator enthusiasts have started placing mason bee hotels in their backyards or gardens, but could be indirectly harming mason bees or supporting predators of mason bees, if not cared for properly.

Stacking trays (pictured left) or cardboard tubes are better nesting sites to provide, since bamboo or logs with drilled holes can be hard to clean.

For more information about blue orchard mason bees and how to properly care for bee hotels in the Pacific Northwest, please read this Oregon State University Extension Article.

How to Support Mason Bees and Leaf Cutter Bees

This guide addresses the diversity of bees belonging to the Megachilidae family; there are over 200 described species of Megachilids in the Pacific Northwest. Learn about leaf cutter bees and mason bees including the life cycle and what plants may be preferred by these bees in this guide by Washington State University Extension.

cover page for extension article about megachilid bees in the PNW

leaf cutter bee chewing leaf
Photo by Erica Siegel

Leaf cutter bees are solitary, cavity nesting bees as well, but instead of using mud like mason bees do, they line their nests with meticulously carved leaves.

xray of leaf cutter bee nest
Photo by USDA-ARS Bee Biology and Systemic Laboratory

How can you discover what pollinators are visiting your space?

cover page for guide to wild bees and floral visitors

Since wild bees are difficult to monitor and identify, this guide acts as an introductory document for those who would like to understand wild bee biodiversity and contribute to conservation through monitoring.

Interested in Bee Taxonomy and Citizen Science?

Volunteer for the Washington Bee Atlas!

wsda logo
osu master melittologist program logo

The Washington Bee Atlas is a WSDA Pollinator Program that trains and partners with volunteers to identify and map existing native bee species around the state. All volunteers are trained through the Oregon State University Master Melittologist Program.

Bee-yond bees – check out these bee mimics!

Pollinator diversity goes far beyond bees. Many animals can directly or indirectly pollinate such as: flies, moths, butterflies, beetles, bats, birds, and some reptiles!

Second to bees, pollinating flies are incredibly important pollinators. Although many flies lack formal pollen-trapping hairs, maybe flies that are “bee mimics” are hairy such as those in the family Bombylidae (pictured top right). Many hover flies, family Syrphidae, (pictured middle right and bottom right) come in all shapes and sizes. They feed primarily on nectar and pollen, and pollinate plants in the process!

How can you tell them apart?

Bee: long, oval, side of ’face’
Fly: large, round, cover most of ‘face’
Bee: hourglass with ‘waist’, cylindrical abdomen
Fly: usually more stout with less obvious ‘waist’
Bee: 2 pairs, often back at rest, shorter than body
Fly: 1 pair, 45° angle at rest, usually longer than body

bee fly
Photo by Frank Vassen
Large hoverfly with yellow and black stripes
Photo by Jean and Fred Hort
Large hoverfly
Photo by Bri Price

Below are some informational graphics produced for our WSU Bee Program social media. Swipe right to learn some fun facts!