Bees are pretty incredible! Here in Alberta the bees we have are responsible for the pollination of ⅓ of our food. Did you know in Alberta there are over 300 different species of bees alone! Even more interesting is the fact that the solitary bees are more efficient than honey bees in pollinating plants. So what’s the difference between solitary bees and social bees?
Social Bees include Honey Bees and Bumble Bees. They are usually known to make honey and wax within their hive. These bees sting when they feel their hive is in danger however because their stinger is barbed it is left behind and the bee dies after the stinging. These beautiful bees live in a hive which is ruled by a queen. The queen bee is the largest in the hive. The hive is totally reliant on the queen’s health and her ability to lay healthy eggs. The workers are female and the drones are male. They all have their own duties in the hive. The queen goes on a mating flight with several drones and returns to the hive to lay eggs. She can lay around 2000 eggs per day! She lays them in the wax cells within the hive. The worker bees are the smallest, they do everything for the hive from feeding larvae to cleaning the hive. The drone bees are the middle sized bee and their sole job is to mate with queens from other hives.
Solitary Bees include Leafcutter bees, Digger bees, Carpenter bees, Miner bees, and Mason bees among the many. These bees live alone and do not swarm. They rarely sting and are not aggressive making them safe around kids and pets.
Solitary bees fly around from flower to flower to collect pollen and nectar for their eggs. The solitary bees find or make holes themselves to lay their eggs in. Some dig tunnels in the ground while others use old beetle tunnels in wood. They lay their eggs in the tunnel (females in the back and males in the front) and seal each egg in its own cell within the hole. The material they seal the cell with depends on the species of bee. For example, Leafcutter Bees seal each cell with leaves, Masked Bees seal their cells with a cellophane or clear waxy substance, Miner bees use mud to seal their cells.
Solitary bees will forage for pollen and nectar for their eggs. Once the cell is sealed with the food and egg within the mother bee does not return to care for the young like social bees do. Once the egg is laid and the cell sealed the egg will go through the larval and pupal stage while eating the food left for it. Then it becomes an adult and stays in the cell until spring when it will emerge to begin the cycle over again.