Those who have been here to Adobe Nido B&B know I’m a beekeeper. We have one hive and get enough honey for the bed and breakfast, but I keep bees for the fun of it and to keep a healthy population in our neighborhood. Doing my part for the declining numbers of bees in the world. But I found something new to try, it’s lots of fun, and easy as can be. Native bee houses! Everyone can do this – help the bees, help your gardens and help the environment.
Native bees are a nice alternative to a honey bee hive for your garden because they require no maintenance, they’re not subject to the diseases honey bees may suffer, and they are not at risk to be overtaken by Africanized bees, (aka killer bees). They are very docile, and would have to be
Native bees don’t live in a colony as honey bees do, so are often called Solitary bees. Some tunnel underground to lay their eggs. Others will tunnel into dead wood, and some will just use whatever holes and crannies they can find. If you give them their own uptown condo you will be sure to have happy tenants, and thus have pollinators to work your garden.
I bought my native bee house from a garden supply catalog, but they are really easy to make, and you let your imagination run wild. There are plenty of web sites out there to give you inspiration or detailed instruction, but this is not rocket science. I think the simpler the better.
We put our bamboo native bee house up last summer and it took the bees until the following late spring to make use of it. (I think one cell was used last year.) This year they got serious. I took my photos last week and there were only a few cells filled up. Today they have 13 filled.
They start at the back of the cell, lay an egg, leave a specific amount of pollen in the compartment and seal it up with leaves and some other goo they make up from plant matter. Then they do it again and again until they reach the end of the cell, sealing up the whole thing tight as shown in the photos. The type of bees using my bee house are leaf cutter bees. (Family: Megachilidae (Leaf-cutter, mason, carder, and blue orchard bees).
If you have ever seen a plant in your yard that has bites out of it and no insects in sight, you probably have some leaf cutter bees nearby.
I’m not going to go on and on about these little garden helpers, because everyone has different kinds of Native Bees in their area, but I will say that there are over 4,000 species of Native Bees in North America, and New Mexico has about 500 species, so you are sure to have some in your neighborhood. If you build it they will come!
I found a few good links and some free handouts that will get you on your way. Both of the next three links are for great little free booklets in pdf format. For New Mexico Native bees, (and many species will be crossovers in your area) check this out…
Pocket Guide to the Native Bees of New Mexico
The USDA also has a great publication to get you started, and it is a little more generic to all Native Bees so it may be the one for you…
Bee Basics: An Introduction to Our Native Bees – USDA Forest Service
This is a two page fact sheet to get you on your way if you can be creative and imaginative on your own
Nests for Native Bees
I found so many different versions of “How to Build a Native bee house”, you should Google it on your own to find what works best for you. Basically, all you need is a drill, some wood, a nail and a hook to hang it. It’s that simple. Of course you may also use natural materials or make it as complicated as you like. Or just buy one like I did.
I know how to have fun in Albuquerque!
Sarah Dolk, Adobe Nido Bed & Breakfast
Expert on Destination Albuquerque and Central New Mexico!