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Native Bees

photo: Chuck Spidell

Bee DiversityHoneybees are well known, but there are actually more than 4,000 species of native bees in the US. In Maryland you can find about 430 bee species. They range from tiny Fairy Bees that nest in sand dunes to impressively large Carpenter Bees that drill holes in wood. Some Sweat Bees and Mason Bees are shimmering metallic blue or green while some Bumble Bees and Digger Bees look very furry and plump.Click here to download aField Guide of Common Bees in MarylandPhoto: Dr.Joseph Wilson

How to Help Native Bees1. Plant native plants in your yard.2. Make your yard a pesticide free zone.3. Provide a nesting box and some bare dirt. Some bees like tubes, and some make nests underground.4. Provide water in a shallow dish such as a bird bath.5. Tell your family, friends, neighbors, and teachers about native bees!

Bee or Wasp?

Stinging Facts1. Most honeybees, wasps, bumblebees, and native bees can sting. However, none of them attack humans just because they are mean! These insects only sting when either their colony is threatened, or when the insects are stepped on, squashed, or roughly handled. The solitary bees that will nest in your bee box are very non-agressive and will never bother you as long as you don't try to catch them with your bare hands, or swat them.2. Only females can sting, because the stinger is a modified part of the egg laying device. Male bees (also called drones) and male wasps don't have a stinger at all.Honey bee stinger with venom sac3. Honeybees are the only bee species that can sting mammals only once because they die after stinging. Their barbed stinger hooks into the skin and rips part of the bee's abdomen out when it tries to get away. For several minutes, the venom sack keeps pumping toxins into the skin even after it was seperated from the bee. Honeybees can sting other insects multiple times and stay alive, because insects don't have elastic skins like mammals. For the bee colony, it is worth loosing a few worker bees to protect the hive from being robbed by, for example a bear.4.Getting stung by a bee or wasp hurts, but for most people it is not a dangerous experience. However, some people are allergic to the toxin and can develop life threatening symptoms. Bee careful!5. Bee stings produce different toxins than wasp stings. Therefore, someone may be allergic to bee stings but not wasp stings, or vice versa.

Native Bees are Awesome Pollinators!All bees collect nectar and pollen from flowers. Nectar gives them energy while pollen provides protein to the growing bee larvae. Native bees are super pollinators because they adapted to fit perfectly to the natural plants of North America. Honeybees were brought from Europe by early settlers and can pollinate a lot of crops, but native bees are really important for native plants such as blueberries, tomatoes, or squash.

Inside Your Native Bee BoxPhoto: Katharina UllmanThe bees that are nesting in your bee box are all solitary. That means they are not living in a colony with thousands of other bees together but all by themselves. Each hole or tube in your bee box could be a nest of a different bee. Inside the holes, the bee builds several compartments and lays one egg in each. She adds some pollen and nectar and plugs the entrance. In this picture you can see (from left to right) two larvae, one cell with pollen and nectar covering an unhatched egg, and a bee pupa. When all the bees in the tube are ready to emerge, they break down the walls between the cells and come out to start their own family. In case you are wondering what the black pellets next to the larvae and pupa are: Well, even bees have to go to the bathroom!