Miner Bees

When you hear the words “miner bee” what do you imagine?

Do you see a picture of a bee with a mining hat on its head?

That might be a good way for you to remember the miner bee, and the kind of habitat it likes to live in. You see, miner bees like to make their homes in the ground. But not just any ground. It can’t be too wet, or too soggy. It can’t be too cold or too hot.

Badlands National Park, South Dakota USA

Miner Bee, Adrena accepta face

What miner bees really like is un-mulched sandy soil that is in a bare, sunny location, but that’s still close to shrubs.

That makes it possible for them to burrow into the ground to make their homes, to stay warm and cozy, and get protection from the elements when it’s too hot or too wet.

Female miner bees will make their burrow about eight inches down into the ground, and then will make small cells leading off the the main entrance whole. In each cell, the female bee will put a small pollen ball, mixed with nectar, and lay an egg upon it. Then she will seal off the chamber with a mud wall, and goes on to do it again. And again and again. After about eight weeks, she will die, but her babies will be born, eat the pollen and nectar, and grow up a bit. Then they will spin a cocoon and pupate, and emerge the next year, as adults.

While miner bees are solitary bees (like mason bees and leafcutter bees), they also like to live in a community of sorts. They like to keep their family closeby. So you will often find small groups of miner bees living close together.

Genova, Italy

Miner Bee, Andrenidae_-_Andrena_agilissima

There are more than 1300 species of miner bees, and they live almost everywhere in the world (except South America and Oceania).

The female miner bee is typically about 8 – 17 mm in length (the males are smaller), often brown/black and have whitish abdominal hair bands. Some species have metallic blue or green coloring.

Typically, miner bees emerge when temperatures outside range between 20 and 30 degrees Celcius. That means that they come out in late spring and early summer, when spring blossoming fruit like apples and some berries are out.

Interestingly enough, miner bees use the same technique as bumblebees to get the pollen they need from these plants. They are able to dislocate their wings, and use “buzz power” to vibrate the stems and flowers to make the pollen drop on them. That’s what you call using your talents!

Like many solitary bees, miner bees don’t make honey, nor are they likely to sting. Some sources claim, however, that if they are roughly handled, they may bite. Always remember to respect the bees, let them have their space, and you can all live together happily.

So if, one day when you’re walking and you see small holes in the hard dirt, stay still and quiet and watch from a distance of about 5-6 feet. I bet you’ll have found a site where miner bees live.

Bahrenfeld, Hamburg

Miner Bee

 

Books that make you go hmmm…

Have you ever read a book that totally changed your life? One that pushed you to change something, however small, that led you from one change to another?

A little while ago, I read an excerpt from a book called Slow Death by Rubber Duck that made me completely revisit how I was cleaning my home and my body.

In this book, the authors explained how they had used themselves as human guinea pigs in an effort to understand the toxicity of everyday life. Their revelations will shock you, and might even frighten you.

Reading just the excerpt made me stop using commercially prepared personal care products, and household cleansers. I stopped using things like Mr. Clean or Windex. I stopped using commercial laundry soap, dryer sheets, even shampoo and conditioner. I became committed to Green Up my Clean Up. The result? My home is clean and I feel healthier already. Because of the success that I have enjoyed, I’ve decided to share my knowledge and experience with my readers and fans.

I’m in the process of making “Green Up Your Clean Up” kits which will be available for sale in the next few days (as I’m hoping that these can arrive at your home for Christmas delivery). I’m planning to make four kinds of kits: a kit for laundry, a kit for general house cleaning, a kit for personal care, and a kit that contains all three kinds of kits. Let me know which one you would prefer to find under your tree this year!

When people care…

When people care about something, they don’t just sit and complain about a problem. They try to find a way to improve the situation, to ease discomfort, or to solve the problem outright.

Bee deaths are caused by a myriad number of problems. They’ve been linked to pesticide use, to the planting of genetically modified organisms, and a host of other human behaviours and patterns that have impacted bees.

One of the problems that bees have is that their habitat has often been changed into an industrialized, homogenized plant landscape. This can cause bee “starvation” as the bees aren’t able to find enough healthy sources of food to sustain them close to home, and help them survive until they can get to a closer, healthier food source.

One person (Hady Ghassabian Gilan) who cares about bees thought that one way that bees could be supported was if people could carry what he calls a “bee first aid kit” on their key chains. He saw that many bees in his area were having difficulty finding enough food to sustain themselves. He was often finding exhausted bees, too weak to fly, and thought “I want to do something to help the bees.”

 

bee saver

Called the Bee Saver, this tiny kit holds enough nectar to give a bee a boost, so that it can at least return to its nest. Hady studied the bees habits and tastes and worked with local beekeepers to find a “suitable nutrient able to temporarily replace the nectar of flowers.”

While the Bee Saver isn’t in production yet, Hady hopes that he will be able to put it in production, after what he hopes will be a successful fundraising event in the near future.

I’ll bee keeping an eye out for news to share with you about this…

 

Bug homes

When most people think about bugs, they think of them as pests, as something that you don’t want or need as part of your life.

But many bugs are beneficial bugs, and do things that we need done help our plant matter break down to become humus, which makes for healthier soil.jan and bug house photo

My friend, Jan Morrisson, posted this picture to her Facebook page just the other day. She was so happy because she had found a way to make a home for bugs that they would like to live in. There is room in that house for all manner of bugs. Bees, beetles, potato bugs, ants, wild bees, ladybugs, spiders, and many many more.

By making this space at the edge of her yard, close to the field, she gives the bugs what they want so that she can get what she wants: beneficial bugs in her yard.

She got the idea from her recent visit with her sister in the UK. She had seen a number of them on various properties. When she came home she decided to try her hand at making her own.  While she sees her bug home as being a bit rustic, it is a great example of how just one person can create a habitat that is perfectly habitable for the bugs that benefit us all.

Your attempts to make healthy habitats for people, plants and bugs doesn’t have to look like a work of art for it to be effective. Simply creating the space will help protect the health of the soil, the plants and the creatures that count on them.

 

Social bees

As part of Pollinator Week, I thought it would be good to introduce a bit of information about the many kinds of bees there are in the world.

 

When I say the word “bee” you probably have a picture like the one below: A Honey Bee-  Erik HooymansYou immediately think “honey”, “bee” “honeybee” and “beehive” in less than a second. Why? Well, that’s easy. It’s because our society has placed a strong value on honeybees. They are a source of honey, which is (and was) one of our early ancestor’s first sources of sweetness in their diet.

Honeybees are known for producing honey. So it’s no wonder that our first thought when we say “bee” is “honeybee” and that we think “bees nest” or “bee hive” next.

But not all bees live in hives or nests. Actually, of the seven to 9 recognized families of bees (depending on your source), only three families of bees are considered eusocial (meaning that they live together in communities with specific chores/tasks being taken up by individual bees).

Social bees have complex societies, and all the bees within a eusocial bee community have a “job” to do.  Typically, within a honey bee society, there is one Queen. All the other bees work to support her and the work that she does. Her biggest job is making lots and lots of babies. She needs, however, the support of other bees to help her do her work. She can’t spend all her time doing the other things if she’s going to be a good Queen for her hive. She needs mates – many mates to make it possible for her to lay eggs which can develop into healthy bees.

Within the honeybee hive there are many other types of bees.

  • There are nurse bees, who take care of the developing bee babies.
  • There are worker bees, who build more cells so that there is more room to grow.
  • There are forager bees, who go out looking for sources of nectar and pollen, and who bring it back for everyone to enjoy.
  • There are bees that we might call “defenders” who take care of protecting the nest/hive from attack from predators.
  • There is even a bee who has to “take out the trash”.

But not all bees are social. In fact only 5% of bees are social at all. Considering that there are more than 20,000 different species of bees, and that the rest (95%) are what we call “solitary bees”, it only makes sense that we also need to learn more about solitary bees.

Stick around, I’ll bee sharing (bee jokes, gotta love them) information about all sorts of bees in my blog and on my YouTube channel.