Shows a small native bee on potentilla flowers

Bees in Season

Author: Amanda C.

A work colleague mentioned this week that she had seen a small black bee crawling into some bamboo cane she had on her balcony, presumably nesting in it, and wanted to get some flowers for the bee and any friends that came. She didn’t have a picture, though, so the question was, what bee was it and what would it eat? Some research found the information that there are possibly several small, black, cavity-nesting bee species active here at this season, and that some are generalists (i.e. they aren’t picky eaters), but the specialist (picky) ones mostly like plants in the rose family – which includes roses, obviously, but also things like potentillas and strawberries.

The next day at the Alcove Garden, the potentillas (Dasiphora fruticosa) were in full bloom. And lo and behold, they were hosting at least two different types of small black bees! If you’re not really looking, you may not notice them, or you may wonder if they’re flying ants; they’re about ant-sized, and they don’t sit down for long or make noise compared to what we expect from the larger bumblebees and honeybees. But they are out there zipping about and doing their job of pollinating. Crouch or sit close to a potentilla shrub and watch for a few minutes this week, and you may see them in action.

Shows a small native bee on potentilla flowers

A small dark native bee gathers pollen from a flower in a blooming potentilla shrub.

Photo: Amanda C.