Saturday, May 16, 2015

Bee-Havior Part 1

For the past two years I've had a solitary bee house hanging from a wall at the back of my house, in one of the few places that I had space for one, but the location didn't work. Too many other insects tried to make it a home, and it didn't get any early morning sunlight which is critical for nesting solitary bees. They need the heat of the sun to kick start their metabolism, so they want to nest in areas that get warm early. That's why some Mason Bees built a nesting site in the dead limbs of a tree in my back yard. Here's a male Mason Bee that I photographed shortly after he had hatched out of that nest:

Tree House II

So not long after I took that shot I took the bee house down from the wall and set it on my patio table and cleaned it out (some Earwigs had invaded it). But before I could put it back together a female Mason bee had found the nesting block and had started building egg chambers in it. So after seeing her exit the nesting block I sunk a wood screw into the same tree that the Mason's had built their nest and I hung up the bee house.

The female Mason bee kept coming back to my patio table looking for the bee house...

Not to be outdone by an insect I got an idea: I took the bee house down from the tree, set it back on my patio table, and waited for the Mason bee to go into it. When she did I very slowly picked up the bee house, carried it across the yard, and hung it back on the tree. When she came out she must have imprinted the new location in her mind because she stopped coming to my patio table and is still building out brood cells in the bee house :) Here's the only frame that she has allowed me to take of her so far:

New Apartment III

Getting that single frame was tough. I camped out in front of the bee house before sunrise and spent almost two hours trying to acclimate the Mason bees to me and the camera. If they see you move as they are trying to get active they will go back to being dormant. It's like they have a random number generator in their heads and for several minutes they'll just go back to sleep. If you have the camera close to them while they are dormant then they won't notice it when they wake up -they'll think that it's just a part of the scenery. But be warned: Once they are acclimated to you and the camera they will get active very quickly. Once that Mason Bee stuck her head outside of the bee house I had about a minute to photograph her, and as you can see she wasn't sitting still.

New Apartmemt

New Apartment II

As of this blog post I have two Leaf Cutter bees building brood cells in my bee house, with one chamber completely full and another one that's almost done. Even if you're not into macro photography it's a good idea to set up a solitary bee house. They are excellent pollinators and they are also very timid!

Until next time happy shooting :)

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