I’m an aspiring homesteader and beekeeper and as I’m planning my start next spring, I’ve begun to wonder about something: is it possible to keep bumblebees and other non-honey nativebees?
I want to help native bee populations and get more pollinators beyond just the honeybees, but I’ve never heard of anyone doing this. Does anyone know if you can keep thing like bumblebees? How and where would you acquire them, and what are some other bee species native to, say, northern Indiana, that would be reasonable to keep?
I provide water for the native bees. You have to make sure there's something in it that they can use to climb out if they fall in as they're good at drowning if they fall in. You can also build carpenter bee habitats by drilling holes in wood. There are some posts here that shows them doing that at Wheaton Labs.
A piece of land is worth as much as the person farming it.
-Le Livre du Colon, 1902
First on the list would be providing pollen and nectar sources not only during the height of the growing season but with special attention to VERY early and very late resources. Very early is the most difficult. While you're doing that, think about sand areas, bare soil areas, hollow stems, holes in wood, water, and even muddy areas. Basically, if the nectar and pollen resources are good, they will come.
Not sure where you're located but Bombus impatiens is the most common bumblebee here. They commonly nest in bird houses with grass and stuff in them. To try to make sure those houses are bumblebee only, make the whole 3/4-1" and no bigger (too small for birds).
There are a number of designs online for fostering bumblebee colonies underground. Just make sure you don't locate them where you'll have to frequently kneel or do busy work. They may defend their site.
Louisville, KY - Zone 6b (near border of 6a), Heat Zone 7, Urban habitat
"Si hortum in bibliotheca habes, nihil deerit." [If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need] Marcus Tullius Cicero in Ad Familiares IX, 4, to Varro.
I just got off the phone with Dave Hunter, probably the number one native bee guy in the world. He runs https://crownbees.com/ -- Here's a video I made with him, and the video seems to be super popular (more than a quarter million views)
So there's a bunch of important stuff and I wanna write it down before I forget.
NB007: reeds are better than trays which are better than blocks.
NB008: 75% of all pollinators are ground nesting. The best thing is TRUE no-till systems - like hugelkultur
NB009: If you get an insect hotel, or solitary bee house ... if you care for it properly every year (take out the cocoons, put in fresh reeds, etc.) it will house pollinators for 20 to 30 years. If you forget to take care of it, or move, or whatever - it will be fine for five years.
NB010: brush piles house a lot of pollinators. Try to work a couple of beefy logs into the middle of your brush piles. And try to add teasel, japanese knotweed and bamboo to your brush piles.
NB011: When you make your bee watering station - complete with a place for all sorts of insects to get water - maybe add a pound of clay to one side. That makes for squishy clay that mason bees can use.
NB012: three season nector/pollen source.
NB013: grow more food. You food will have a bloom at a particular time of year, and the pollinators that groove on that time of year will set up camp in your area. More and more food, more and more pollinators. Keep expanding. If you grow it, they will come (probably). Of course, if you put in 40 acres of all the same thing, they aren't ready for that, so you might be disappointed. But if you start with a rich polyculture on a quarter of an acre, they will be ready for the next year when you do a full acre (probably).
paul wheaton wrote:NB010: brush piles house a lot of pollinators. Try to work a couple of beefy logs into the middle of your brush piles. And try to add teasel, japanese knotweed and bamboo to your brush piles.
I found that lovage stalks (the smaller ones) look to be pretty good for mason bees. And several made a home in some cupplant stalks as well.
"Hundreds of years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in or the type of car I drove... But the world may be different because I did something so bafflingly crazy that it becomes a tourist destination"
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