When most people think about pollinating bees, they picture the honey bee, often brought into our environment from abroad to help pollinate crops. But more than 30% of the plants that require pollinating are served by native bees that do not live in hives. A single mason bee, one type of solitary bee, visits more than 1,000 blossoms each day. In fact, most solitary bees, such as mason bees or bumblebees, are two to three times better pollinators than honey bees because they forage at temperatures too cool or wet for honey bees, and because they “buzz pollinate,” a method that vibrates the blossom to shake out more of the pollen, resulting in larger, more abundant fruit.
Beekeeping is a hobby that is a fascinating way to study hive bees, but it can be expensive and complicated to maintain. Attracting the hundreds of native species of solitary bees is far simpler and essentially cost-free. Solitary bees are insects that make their homes in rotted logs, in the stalks of hollow-stemmed plants, or in the ground, where they hibernate alone in autumn through winter, often in proximity to others of their species.