Solitary Dream Homes
A grass roots initiative
for the Canada and beyond
Above: Bee house by Greg Corman; Bee Bead Condo by Sarah Peebles
Build your own bee dream home for solitary-nesting native bees. Engage your design savvy, non-linear leanings, craftsmanship and playful spirit. B-friend your local pollinators!
Easy DIY Bee Condos: Download PDF (3 pages)
What: Build creative ‘condos’ for all species of wild, solitary bees which are mostly native to Canada or wherever you live. Post your photos of them to our web gallery exhibits (more on that below).
Why: To cultivate bee biodiversity, more robust ecosystems, and food security. To add beauty, interest and education to your garden, school or neighborhood. Why not?
When: Bee abodes can be placed outdoors anytime, but April – June is a good time to put them out in Southern Ontario. Everybody’s photos can be posted at 2 ongoing web galleries all year long (more below).
Where: 1. Your condo can go anywhere. Really, solitary bees are everywhere, and they’re gentle (more below on stings). Put your dream home in your yard, neighborhood, community garden, school, green space, rooftop, balcony or park. The DIY sheet above tells all. 2. Online galleries. Canadians: post your bee condo photos to Solitary Dream Homes Flickr photo stream via email (see below for more info about uploading by email). We’ll add them to Hymenopteran Housing Project global Flickr group. If you’re not in Canada, please post your bee houses at Hymenopteran Housing Project global Flickr group for flickr members (Flickr is free).
“Mary-Jane” (Hoplitis, a type of mason bee) builds cell and rolls a pollen ball – macro video
Your bee house in action, even if you can’t see inside! (See more bees nesting at Odes to Solitary Bees at this site. Video: Stephen Humphrey).
We came to look at the apartment.
Solitary Dream Homes invites you to create a unique “bee condo”, sculpture or other habitat structure for wild, solitary-dwelling bees and wasps. Also known as tunnel-nesting bees, these bees are different from honey bees, carpenter bees and bumble bees. Solitary wasps are key to natural insect control, and are different from their social cousins (more below on biology).
To cultivate biodiversity, make your dream home cater to the many different kinds of solitaries living around us. After all, about a third of Canada’s 800 species of bees are twig and cavity-nesters! Let’s re-imagine the “mason bee box”, which caters mostly to the bee group Osmia (orchard bees). Mason bee boxes are widely used to enhance pollination and bee habitat in orchards and backyards in British Columbia, parts of the U.S., Europe and elsewhere. However, they don’t encourage the full range of bee biodiversity.
Your creation can be simple, complex, or something in between. Solitary bees will take to it wherever there is ample sunlight and nearby pollen (including flowering trees). Make it compelling, inventive and functional! See the easy DIY above.
SAFETY? Solitary bees and solitary wasps are not social insects, and are unlikely to sting you! Check out these bee biology illustrations and “Essential Facts about Canada’s Native Bees and Wasps” (below) to understand why solitary bees do not live in groups, do not make honey or wax, or mind if you watch their nesting activities – even up close.
WHEN? The solitaries will be making new homes April – September (in Southern Ontario), and you can make your home and put it outside anytime. You may especially want to celebrate International Pollinator Week, June 21- 27 (see pollinator.org).
LOCAL! Do not order solitary bees online or move your bee homes far from their origin!! Disease spread and non-local bee species competition is a big concern to pollination conservationists. We want to cultivate our local pollinators through creating and maintaining habitat, pollinator gardens and other foraging and nesting opportunities for all native bees.
Read “Easy DIY Bee Condos” (Download PDF, 3 pages).
Take care of your condo: read the following 2 information sheets from The Xerces Society to curb natural pest build-ups:
Sorry – we don’t have the people-power to answer your questions. Please direct any questions you may have to either the “Hymenopteran Housing Projects” discussion group, xerces.org or pollinator.org.
Solitary Dream Homes Flickr gallery: Post photos of your bee abodes!
Email your photo to: hall40side [at] photos [dot] flickr [dot] com . It will be automatically posted to the SDH Flickr page. For example:
Subject: Balsa Condo Extroardinair. Tags: bee house, solitary bees, balsa
The subject will be the title, and, Flickr is smart enough to see the words “Tags: tag1 tag2″ etc. at the end of the title and make those into tags (so you could even add your own tags that way). What you put in the body of your email will be the caption of the photo. NOTE: your email address will not be will not be displayed on Flickr or even saved — this is just a way for anybody to upload to Flickr (you don’t have to be a Flickr member to do this!). Bee abodes emailed to our web gallery must accomodate a wide range of solitary bee species, not just mason bees (see DIY guidelines).
But wait, there’s more:
You REALLY SHOULD check out these pages also on this site, and the info below.
Essential Facts about Canada’s Native Bees and Wasps:
There are over 800 species of bees native to Canada (200+ in the GTA); some 5,000 bee species in North America and more than 20,000 species worldwide. European honey bees (Apis mellifera), a managed species, were initially introduced to North America and most other parts of the world from Europe.
Solitary Bees do not live in colonies, and do not make honey or beeswax. Females usually live more or less independently and construct cells for individually laid eggs out of a wide variety of materials. Most species live in the ground, and many species live in pre-formed cavities such as beetle bores and hollow stems in bramble. There are various flavours of ‘social’, described in more detail in the article “Bees of Eastern Canada” (see RB web site for part of it), and in the new book, “Keeping the Bees” (Laurence Packer). Solitary bees and wasps do not defend their nests (except from other insects, including cleptoparasitic bees and wasps, which sneak into their nests). They do not sting people unless trapped or squished.
Wasps are largely carnivores evolutionary ancesters of bees (bees are believed to have made the scene about the same time as flowering plants). Many solitary wasps species seek similar nest locations to solitary bees. Wasps also pollinate, though most do to a much lesser extent than do bees. Like bees, most species of wasps are solitary (do not live in hives), living here and there in bramble and earth, etc. They also do not sting people unless trapped or handled.
Bombus (a/k/a bumble bee), are among the most widespread and critical pollinators native to North America: their colonies in nature often live underground in hollows such as discarded mouse nests. Their colonies grow throughout the summer months and naturally die off by the first frost.The mated new queens then find different underground locations in which to over-winter to start a new colony cycle the following Spring. Their lifecycle is somewhat different from honey bees,which were imported to North America by European setters. They do defend their nests, but otherwise do not sting unless trapped or handled.
More about pollination ecology and bee lifecycles illustrations at Bee Biodiversity and Bees Habitat & Coevolution on this site.
More about the bees and wasps pictured above:
Cuckoo Wasp hopes to sneak into other solitary wasps’ nests. See our cleptoparasite bee trading card #18, and this related video.
Male ground dwelling bees of the genus Agapostemon find new napping spots. See related video.
Solitary mud dauber wasps (Trypoxylon metatarsus) make an intense Jimmy Hendrix-like sound while they packed in stunned garden spiders and seal cells with mud. Watch and listen up close in related video.
Fruit flies? Certainly not! Small sweat bees from the Hyleaus group.
Bees in the genus Heriades from the Okanagan valley make a nest among diverse neighbors (see Bee Houses Around the World for more condos by
SDH had its first exhibit at the Pollinators Festival, June 27, 2010 at the Toronto Evergreen Brick Works, as part of International Pollinator Week (June 21-27, 2010). Thanks to Sabrina for her initiative and for providing this opportunity!