Leave Some Stubble for the Bees

Cavities in a standing dead tree.

Cavities in standing dead trees.

Approximately 30% of native bees nest in cavities. Cavities can include holes in standing dead trees, downed logs or other wood, cavities in rocks and cavities in plant stems.

Leafcutter bees, Megachile spp. often nest in plant stems

Leafcutter bees, Megachile spp. often nest in plant stems

For the bees that choose to nest in plant stems, they are seeking out stems that are dry/dead and from the previous season. In nature, opportunistic openings in the stems would be made when the winter’s snow load breaks the stems or perhaps from browsing by deer.

Small carpenter bee, Ceratina sp.

Small carpenter bee, Ceratina sp.

Most cavity-nesting bees need an accessible hole or opening in a hollow plant stem.

Small carpenter bee, Ceratina sp. pupa. One of a few bees that chew cavities in the pith in plant stems. The pith shavings are used as brood cell divisions.

Small carpenter bee, Ceratina sp. pupa. One of a few bees that chew cavities in the pith in plant stems. The pith shavings are used as brood cell divisions.

There are a few bee genera including the small carpenter bee, Ceratina sp., that have strong-enough mandibles designed to chew out the soft, pithy center of a stem if the stem is not hollow.

Plant stubble cut high to leave nesting sites for bees

Plant stubble cut high to leave nesting sites for bees

It’s No Trouble To Leave Some Stubble
One of the easiest ways to provide cavity-nesting sites in plant stems in your landscape is to cut down your perennial stems from the previous season (the following spring), leaving 12 – 18″ of stubble. The new seasonal growth from the perennials will soften the appearance of the stubble and you will be providing many potential nesting sites.

The advantages of this method compared to building elaborate bee hotels or supplemental bee boards is one of hygiene. By mimicking a naturally-occurring phenomena, you are helping to limit the number of bees nesting in close proximity and therefore reducing potential transmission of pathogens or disease.

 

 

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Comments

    • says

      Hi Tony,
      Good news since I wrote the article, I have found seven stems being excavated by bees! So this looks like an easy way to provide more habitat.
      Heather

  1. Carole says

    Great idea. I have goldenrod stems and swamp blackberries that will make excellent nesting sites.

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