Shelter. Native bees don’t build the wax or paper structures we associate with honey bees or wasps, but they do need places to nest, which vary depending on the species.
- Wood-nesting bees are solitary, often making individual nests in beetle tunnels in standing dead trees.
- Ground-nesting bees include solitary species that construct nest tunnels under the ground.
- Cavity-nesting social species—bumble bees—make use of small spaces, such as abandoned rodent burrows, wherever they can find them.
Protection from pesticides. Most insecticides are deadly to bees, and unnecessary herbicide use can remove many of the flowers that they need for food.
Getting Started Here are two things that you can do to begin improving habitat for native bees on your land:
Minimize tillage. Many of our best crop pollinators live underground for most of the year, sometimes at the base of the very plants they pollinate. To protect them, turn over soil only where you need to.
Allow crops to bolt. If possible, allow leafy crops like lettuce to flower if they need to be tilled right away. This gives bees additional food sources.
If you want to do more to increase the number of native bees pollinating your crops, you can plant hedgerows or windbreaks with a variety of flowering plants and shrubs, reduce or eliminate your use of pesticides, or work with your neighbors to protect natural areas around your farm.
Exercising Care with Insecticides If you use insecticides, choose ingredients targeted to specific species (for example, Btk for pests such as leaf rollers) and the least harmful formulations (i.e., granules or solutions). Spray on calm, dry evenings, soon after dark when bees are not active. Keep in mind that even when crops are not in bloom, some of your best pollinators are visiting nearby flowers, where they may be killed by drifting chemicals.