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Honey Bee, Vancouver Island, BC
Honey Bee, Vancouver Island, BC, photo by Bud Logan

Bees are capable of seeing ultraviolet light, which is invisible to humans. The bee is capable of navigating by ultraviolet light, which even penetrates cloud cover. Honey bees also use the sun as a reference point to communicate to other bees the angle of flight to be followed to arrive at newly discovered nectar-bearing flowers. Bees occur on all continents except Antarctica. They are most frequent in hot, arid habitats. There are about 3500 species of bees in North America.

All bees live on nectar and pollen. We need the bees, without them, plant pollination would be difficult and time-consuming. One-third of our food production directly depends on insect pollination, bees are our most productive pollinators. Bees have a long tongue called a proboscis that allows them to drink the nectar from deep within blossoms. Honeybees are social insects that live in hives. The hive consists of a single queen, a few hundred drones, and thousands of worker bees.

The worker bees are all female, and they do almost everything for the hive. From her birth to her death 45 days later, the worker bee is responsible for everything, feeding the larvae, tending to the queen, cleaning the hive, collecting food, guarding the colony, and building honeycomb. The male bees are drones and their only job is to mate with queens from other hives. After mating, they die. If they do not mate, they can live up to 90 days. You can tell which bees are drones by their bigger bodies and large eyes.

Black Bee, Vancouver Island, B.C. There is one queen bee per hive, and she is the mom of all the other bees. She can lay about 1,500 eggs a day during spring and summer. Queen bees are distinguished from the other members of the hive by their long abdomens and small wings. Soon after birth, queen bees will go out and mate with as many drones as she can, then she returns to the hive and will not leave again.

Red Tailed Bumblebee, Vancouver Island, BC
Red Tailed Bumblebee, Vancouver Island, BC

When the colony needs a new queen bee, the worker bees will choose a healthy larva and feed it royal jelly, royal jelly is produced in the heads of young worker bees, it helps this larva grow into a queen. Queens can live from 4 to 7 years.

There are other types of bees that are just as important to fertilization as the honey bee, there are the black bees, the bumblebees, and the mason bees. All the bees listed here can be used by the home farmer to help in pollination.


Black Bees

Black Bee, Vancouver Island, BCBlack bees (mason bees) overwinter as adults, in vacant nest tunnels. In spring, when it begins to warm up, the adults emerge and mate, then the males die and the females begin working on new tunnels or enlarging tunnels from previous years. She will construct brood cells, load them with food, and then lays an egg in each cell. Read More….



Digger Bees

Digger Bee, Vancouver Island, BCOne interesting group of native bees are the digger bees or ground-nesting bees. These bees build nests in the ground, solitary nests. They will lay their eggs and raise their young in these soil tunnels. The sites in any given area that are optimal for these nests are limited and sometimes, hundreds of bees will nest in the same spot, this gives it a look like it’s a colony, but it is not, each bee has its own nest. Read More….



Honey Bees

Honey Bee, Vancouver Island, BCHoney Bees are social insects that live in colonies. The hive population consists of 1 queen, a few of drones plus thousands of worker bees. The honeybees forage for nectar and pollen from flowering plants. They use the nectar they collect for food for themselves and to feed the young bees of the nest. Read More….



Leaf Cutter Cuckoo Bee

The Megachilidae family of bees is pretty big, they can be found throughout the world. The family consists of 1100 species worldwide with more than 200 bees in the pacific northwest alone. They are solitary bees and nest alone, each of the females build their own nests, some do this in areas where they will have no neighbors while others like to nest in groups, some will even share entrances. Read More….



Red-Tailed Bumblebee

Red Tailed Bumblebee, Vancouver Island, BCThe female Red-Tailed Bumblebee is a large, black bumblebee with a red butt patch. Males are smaller than females and along with the red tail, have two yellow bands on the thorax and one at the base of the abdomen. Read More….



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2 thoughts on “Bees”

  1. Hello, I live in the Port Hardy area of North Vancouver Island, I have noticed less Bees than normal years in my yard, I would like to help out by building a Bee hotel, could you offer some helpful suggestions, for example what type of Bees should I help along and what type of a Bee hotel should I build, do the size of holes, and how many?

    1. drill 1/2 inch holes in a block of wood and put out where bees can find it. once its full move it into a non heated shed and keep there till spring, bring it out early spring

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