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The Native Bee Newsletter is the future of Crown Bees. To find the best hole-nesting bee in your backyard in your region reduces bees shipped around the country. A bee that thrives around you is already acclimated to your climate, uses the resources of your yard to build its nesting chambers, and can be shared within your community to those that ultimately raise food. Thank you for caring about native bees and thank you for supporting the Crown Bees program.
~ Dave Hunter


1. Get to Know Solitary Hole-nesting Wasps

2. Grass-Carrying Wasps

3. Researchers of Native Bees

4. New Book: The Bees of Your Backyard

5. National Monitoring Plan for Native Bees
Just like there are social bees and solitary bees, there are social wasps and solitary wasps. And just like how honey bees are well-known, yellow jackets and hornets are more familiar to us than the wasps that live and work alone. Solitary hole-nesting wasps are beneficial garden allies that hunt garden pests and keep pest populations in check. Solitary wasps have been gaining popularity in organic and natural farms because they are supported as part of an integrated pest management (IPM) program. You may find that solitary wasps in your yard are attracted to your bee house or hotel as they check themselves in. Your bee house guests are a sign of your yard's healthy ecosystem.
What do solitary wasps eat? Each species has a different prey that they prefer. Adult wasps feed on flower nectar and their larvae eat the prey for protein and other nutrients. The small Pemphredon wasp nests in 4mm holes and hunt aphids. Some wasps like to hunt spiders and some of the grass-carrying wasps hunt crickets. 
Here are a few tips for learning how to identify solitary wasps and how to keep them healthy.
Capped Ends Clues: Some wasps use similar nest building materials as bees but the texture of their capped ends is different. For example, solitary wasps that use mud tend to sonicate or vibrate the mud, resulting in a mud capped end that is very smooth and looks like cement. If you see very large holes in your mud capped ends it might be a solitary mud wasp coming back out. Grass-carrying wasps build very messy nesting holes with large pieces of grass sticking out.

Over Winter: If you harvested your mason bee cocoons in the fall and found cocoons that looked very different or were made of a different nesting material, set these cocoons aside. Many wasps species overwinter as larvae (they don't always make cocoons before harvesting) and they are typically long white larvae with a skin that has a thick and waxy texture. Keep the non-mason bee cocoons and larvae in LeafGuardian or BeeGuardian bags and treat them like leafcutter cocoons, keep them in a cool and protected location over the winter. If you can, make note of what size and type of nesting hole materials they preferred.
Early Spring: We want to mimic outdoor temperatures but you also need to keep an eye for any signs of development. Exposed wasp larvae are a great way to watch metamorphosis! As they pupate you will see one stage when they take the shape of an adult but they are still white in color. A good sign that they are nearing full adulthood is when their eyes start to gain color. 
Summer: By now the adults have started to emerge and you've released them into your bee house. Provide them with fresh nesting materials. A variety of loose nesting tubes may be easier for you to manage so that you can separate tubes for storage in the fall. Solitary wasps may be like leafcutter bees in their ability to have more than one generation emerge over the summer. If you can, leave the wasp nesting holes in the bee house over the summer so the new generation of wasps can emerge again. Check on your bee house activity and make notes if you see a wasp bringing back prey or nest building material.
Fall: Keep filled nesting material intact and set them aside, stored inside of a protective BeeGuardian bag in an unheated location. Protect the nesting materials from rodents. Again, you may find solitary wasps in your mason bee reusable wooden trays, set the wasp larvae or cocoons aside.
Female carrying paralyzed cricket
   Photo by Clint Kelly Iowa State
Emily, our Office Manager, raised a variety of bees and wasps in her bee house last summer. Some of her bee house guests are still a mystery to us and we are waiting for them to emerge so that we can identify the adult bee or wasp. 

One type of cocoon we knew was the grass-carrying wasp, which is a common name for wasps in the Isodontia genus found across North America. Their cocoons are very thin and nearly transparent and you can watch the wasp larvae as they gain color and change from white larvae to full-colored adults.
Because they nest in holes, we know they are solitary, not social, and should be much more gentle. Our grass-carrying wasps nested in 8mm nesting holes and their messy grass-stuffing nesting habits make them easy to spot.
You will see large pieces of grass stuffed into the nesting tube with many long ends flowing out into the open. These wasps like to hunt crickets and the adult wasps feed on nectar, so not only are they balancing your insect populations they are also doing some pollination as they visit flowers.
To care for these beneficial insects, leave their nesting materials out over the summer as they can have more than one generation emerge over the season. Heather Holm, author, horticulturist, and biologist, wrote a wonderful article about the Isodontia mexicana species of grass-carrying wasp.
Working with bees and wasps can really change your perception about these fascinating insects!
Things we don't know:
Social wasp stings hurt. We haven't tried this yet, but assume, because these wasps are solitary, they have less need to protect their nesting hole and therefore are non-aggressive.
Is their venom different as well and causes less reactions on our skin?


Every year, we celebrate National Pollinator Week by sharing stories of researchers and native bee advocates and their work with our native pollinators. Our new blog post is a recap of most of the research stories that we shared during this year's Pollinator Week.
There are a lot of questions that we can ask about our native bees and we are pleased to collaborate with researchers and assist them as much as we can. Know someone that wants to share their observations and findings on raising native hole-nesting bees? Email us at and connect with us as we grow more food for more people.
Dr. Jason Graham is the lead researcher developing conservation for the endangered Hawaiian yellow-faced bees in the Plant and Environmental Protection Sciences Department at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa. Seven species of Hawaii's yellow-faced bees were placed on the endangered species list in October 2016, these are the first species of bees to be protected and labeled as endangered. We asked Dr. Graham how we can protect and support Hawaii's endangered bees and he gave us four ways that we can help Hawaiian native bees thrive. Read his steps here.

We are now carrying a superb new book that teaches you how to identify the wild bees in your backyard!
The Bees in Your Backyard provides an engaging introduction to the roughly 4,000 different bee species found in the United States and Canada, dispelling common myths about bees while offering essential tips for telling them apart in the field.

The book features more than 900 stunning color photos of the bees living all around us—in our gardens and parks, along nature trails, and in the wild spaces between. It describes their natural history, including where they live, how they gather food, their role as pollinators, and even how to attract them to your own backyard. Ideal for amateur naturalists and experts alike, it gives detailed accounts of every bee family and genus in North America, describing key identification features, distributions, diets, nesting habits, and more.
  • Provides the most comprehensive and accessible guide to all bees in the United States and Canada
  • Features more than 900 full-color photos
  • Offers helpful identification tips and pointers for studying bees
  • Includes a full chapter on how to attract bees to your backyard
Joseph S. Wilson is assistant professor of biology at Utah State University and has been studying bees and wasps for more than a decade. Olivia Messinger Carril received her Ph.D. in plant biology from Southern Illinois University and has been studying bees and the flowers they visit for nearly twenty years.
"If you have ever asked, ‘what kind of bee is that?' The Bees in Your Backyard is the book for you. It is a must-have for bee lovers of all stripes."--Wild about Ants blog
We learn and grow.
I spoke today with Pollinator Partnership's Public Affairs director and their new president. The Pollinator Partnership is a wonderful and well-run organization that has huge political influences for the US. My intent was to understand how best to coordinate efforts to find hole-nesting bee species across the US with multiple agencies. 
Here's what I learned:
  • While President Trump's viewpoints can seem anti-ecological to me, Vice President Pence's home has a honey bee hive which his wife Karen showed off with fanfare last month. This affirms that pollination still matters to our current administration.
  • The present Farm Bill, which provides funds for Bee Monitoring, has two stages; one where the budget is determined, and the appropriations where the money is doled out. All funds for bee monitoring are being used elsewhere within the Farm Bill, from what we understand there are no remaining funds for native bee monitoring. This news is disheartening to hear.
  • Do not make enemies of the honey bee industry. They are the only ones with lobbyists and because of that, they get heard. There are no solitary bee lobbyists because solitary bees are not well known or well understood. Our stance is that we need to support the honey bees, but that they are adequate pollinators, not great pollinators and certainly not the sole pollinator available. Native bees provide more food. That's a fact that people DO need to hear.
  • If you want to get involved, start with your local senator.
Here's what I'm doing:
  • I firmly believe that the future of our country's food production will require the use of native hole-nesting bees. We need to find them, learn about them, and raise them.
  • As such, I've already reached out to a few researchers to begin grants to find native bees in the nation. 
  • I will forward my program to Pollinator Partnership for their review and understanding.
  • I just requested a meeting with my state's senator in charge of agriculture, Senator Maria Cantwell. I hope to meet with her staff sometime this summer.
What can you do to assist?
  • Be an advocate for native bees. 
  • If you have political influences in your city, county, or state, let them hear about the value of native bees.
  • If you need help with anything, send an email to I read these and am eager to help.
~ Dave Hunter

National Monitoring Plan for Native Bees: Stakeholder and Public Listening Session. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung modified for the NIFA homepage.  |  (425) 949-7954  |  13410 NE 177th PL Woodinville, WA 98072