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Solitary Bees

Among the solitary bees, where each queen bee builds her own nest, there is sometimes evidence of a division of labor. Some of the bee families are more sociable than others and build their nests close to one another and may even share the same entrance to the nests. In such cases, a bee might stand guard at the entrance of the group of nests to protect them from predators. This is not the same social organization as the caste system established by true social bees, where there is only one queen bee laying eggs. Some species of solitary bees build nests, while some scavenge and use the nests of other bees or convenient crevices for laying their eggs. Nest building patterns among solitary bees vary from species to species.

Plasterer bees, members of the family Colletidae, get their name from a secretion they use to plaster the sides of their mud nests, which may be in the ground or in crevices of stones and bricks. Plasterer bees are black with light-colored body hairs. Yellow-faced bees, which belong to the same family as the plasterer bee, build nests in plant stalks and insect burrows. Yellow-faced bees feed their larvae on a mixture of pollen and nectar which is stored in their nests.

There are over 1,200 species of the Andrenid bee family found in North America. These yellow, white, or black bees make their nests underground in tunnels, which may include many branches and may house large groups of bees. Over 500 species of the "sweat bee" can be found in North America. Their sting is not painful, although sweat bees have a reputation for stinging persons who are sweating. They nest in clay and sand banks of streams. Some have metallic blue or green colorations, but they are mostly black or brown.

The leafcutting bee gets its name from its habit of cutting pieces of leaves to use as a nest. It places a ball of pollen on the cut leaf and then lays its eggs on top. It locates its nests in wood, under loose bark, or in the ground. It is closely related to the mason bee, a shiny, blue-green insect, that builds its nest under stones, where it builds clusters of small cells. Mason bees also like empty snail shells and the empty nests of other bees.

Digger, cuckoo, and carpenter bees belong to the same subfamily, Apidae, as the honey bee and bumble bee, but they are not social. The larger carpenter bees nest in open spaces in wood, while the smaller ones use the stems of bushes in which to build their nests. They are robust in build, as are the digger and cuckoo bees. The large ones look like bumble bees. Digger bees are much more hairy than other members of the bee family and they build their nests in burrows in the ground. Cuckoo bees look like small wasps and lay their eggs in the nests of other bees.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Ballistic galvanometer to Big–bang theoryBees - Bee Families, Solitary Bees, Social Bees, Honey Bees, Beekeeping, Killer Bees