What About Bee Stings?
Male bees don’t sting. Bees of many species are small, and their sting feels like a pinprick. Honey and bumble bee queen and worker bees are stingers, but for most people the pain and swelling of a sting are temporary. Compared with a world without bees, an occasional sting is a minor trade-off for the many benefits that bees and other pollinators bring. Of course, for a rare group of people, a bee sting can be lethal. A portable bee kit is recommended for anyone venturing into the outdoors. Bees generally sting as a defense against intruders. Unless you sniff a flower with a bee in it, walk barefoot in a grassy area, or approach an entrance where many bees are entering or exiting, chances are you won’t get stung. Portland Pollinator Partnership plans to locate nesting houses in areas set back from the trail.
Are Bee-Friendly Plants Just for Bees?
Nectar produced by flowering vegetation and trees also supports butterflies, moths, insects, and some hummingbirds. Their seeds and fruits help support birds and other mammals as well as creating habitat for a wide range of wildlife.
Don’t All Bees Look the Same?
No! Some native Maine bees are bright metallic green, some are deep blue, some deep brown or black, some red and yellow. Bees and wasps both have four wings, but wasps lack the branched hair used for collecting pollen. Flower flies have only two wings.
What Is a Bee House?
A bee house, bee wall, or bee nesting block, is a way to expand habitat for our wild bees. Studies show these houses can increase the wild bee population. Bee houses can be purchased or built at relatively low cost. Soft or hard wood that is thoroughly seasoned should be used (never pressure-treated wood). Holes are drilled and the bee houses are screwed to stakes. Many creative variations are possible.
What About Bee Houses in an Urban Yard?
Bee houses in an urban yard or garden are very beneficial. Houses need to be placed one to four feet off the ground, in a semi-protected area, close to leaves or soil, and located within 50 to 300 yards of flowers. They can be placed three to 10 feet apart. Various species of bees may build nests from late May to September in Maine. One tunnel can hold as many as 16 offspring, with one female producing up to 36 bees if conditions are ideal.
What About Maintaining Bee Houses?
Softwood houses can last four or five years and hardwood ones will last much longer. They should be checked in the fall and spring to make sure they are still attached. Other wildlife, including woodpeckers, may damage the houses and they will need to be replaced. Beneficial wasps, ants, and spiders may use them as well.
Won’t Bees Pollinate Any Flower?
Yes, they will, but it is important to provide a range of flowers throughout the year, as well as a mix of flower shapes to accommodate bees with short tongues as well as those with longer tongues (who knew?). Although many consider the common dandelion to be an ugly weed, it is a reliable source of nectar and pollen throughout the season. Purple, blue, and yellow flowers are the most attractive colors to bees.
Source: Bulletin #7153, Understanding Native Bees, the Great Pollinators: Enhancing Their Habitat in Maine Published by The University of Maine Cooperative Extension
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