by Sandy Swegel
Ever feel like you’re doing all the work and everybody else is getting all the credit? That was the great scenario I watched unfold yesterday. It was a warm sunny day and there were hundreds of honey bees buzzing loudly in a hot pink crab apple tree. Such a sight and sound is a crowning point of Spring and gives us hope for honeybees. But I was working in the rock garden nearby pulling weeds out of a mini-hedge of yellow Basket of Gold. (Aurinia saxatilis) While everybody else was watching the crab apple full of honey bees, there was one solitary native bee happily feeding and pollinating an entire row of bright yellow alyssum growing over the rocks. This native bee wasn’t getting all the glory but he was a Rock Star.
Native bees are often much smaller than honey bees. They don’t make honey for us. They have evolved alongside native plants so they prefer to feed on native plants rather than human-made hybrids. The native bee I watched wasn’t a hive builder but makes a solitary nest just for itself in the dirt or somewhere in a little hole in an old dead tree.
You can encourage native bees to live in your garden by planting native plants and by building little nests the native bee likes. You can make a small practical native bee nest out of a box and hollow tubes, or you can go all out and make some garden art as we see in these pictures.
Or just honor the native bee by noticing it. Next time you’re in the garden, look for the little bee that’s at least half the size of all the other bees you see. That’s one of our unsung pollinator heroes.
How to Build your Own Native Bee Nest: