BeeHome Inhabitants

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BeeGAP

Nov 19

You will notice when setting up your BeeHome that there are 4 different diameters of nesting tunnels provided. These nesting tunnels have been specifically designed to work with the most common native & solitary bees and beneficial insects found in New Zealand gardens.

4mm diameter nesting tunnels

These tunnels will be favoured by our three largest species of native New Zealand bees of the genus Hylaeus. These are Hylaeus capitosus, Hylaeus relegatus and Hylause agilis.

Both sexes of all three species have different yellow markings on the otherwise black face, and so are sometimes called yellow-faced bees. All three species occur throughout the country, and collectively they forage on a wide range of both native and introduced flowers.

The life cycle of all three species is much like that of the leafcutter bee, but two major differences are that the females carry their pollen internally in a crop, and the cells are made from a thin, filmy cellophane-like material which is exuded from the mouthparts of the females.

Native Bee

6mm diameter nesting tunnels

If you have purchased a BeeGAP membership which provides your with 75 leafcutter bee (Megachile rotundata) cocoons, these are the nesting tunnels in which the females will prefer to make nests within when provisions her next generation of young.

However once in a while our largest species of Hylaeus, Hylaeus relegatus, may occupy a tunnel. Also, there are two species of tube-nesting solitary wasps which may also occur. One is the native small mason wasp Pison morosum, which makes cells of mud within which it stores spiders, and the other is the immigrant eumenid wasp Ancistrocerus gazella, which also makes cells of mud, but which stores leafroller caterpillars.

Leafcutter Bees

8mm diameter nesting tunnels

Our largest native mason wasp, Pison spinolae, which like its smaller relative, makes cells of mud and stores spiders, will favour this diameter nesting tunnels. When making cells the females emit a loud `zizzing’ sound which can be heard from several metres away.

10mm diameter nesting tunnels

In January and February 2006 the European wool- carder bee Anthidium manicatum was found to be present at Napier and Nelson, and more recently it has been observed in Auckland, Palmerston North, Blenheim, and Christchurch. Within the foreseeable future it will probably colonise most of the settled areas of the country. The species is rather closely related to the lucerne leafcutting bee and has a similar life cycle, but instead of making cells of pieces of leaf, the females scrape, or card, fibres off the surface of `woolly’ plants such as species of mints in the family Lamiaceae.

The fibres are packed into cavities in plant material (and also aluminium window frames), where they look like masses of wool, and cells are formed within the fibres. Tunnels of 10 mm diameter should be acceptable to female wool-carder bees.

Male wool-carder bees are unlike the males of any other insect in New Zealand, because they hover among and chase other insects away from patches of flowers such as purple linaria, Linaria purpurea. This plant is common in many domestic gardens where the meter + tall stems produce masses of small purple flowers from spring until autumn.

Female wool-carder bees love to forage on the flowers for both pollen and nectar, so by chasing other flower-visiting insects away, the males make more food available to the females.

The pay-off for the males is that they get the opportunity to mate with the foraging females. In a home garden one can frequently see male bees attacking and driving away even big insects such as queen bumble bees. In addition to the bees and wasps mentioned above, several other species of native, solitary wasps might occasionally make nests in some of the larger tunnels.

Wool carder bee

Summary

A BeeGAP BeeHome with 4 diameters of nesting tunnel has the capacity to host 6 species of bees and 3 possibly several more species of wasps. By beginning with leafcutting bees which will emerge from the bee container there is a very high probability of nesting action from at least one species in the first year, and the potential for more species to appear later. All species of bees visiting flowers will be enhancing the level of pollination, and the removal of leafroller larvae by one species of wasp will help reduce damage to some leaves and fruits.

For those who don’t like spiders, the mason wasps will be seen as beneficial, but of course spiders catch a good number of insects that can be damaging. All told, if even just a few of the species of bees and wasps inhabit your trap nest, there should be plenty of activity to observe and entertain.