What are Illinois Native Bees?
Bees are insects. Native Illinois bees were present before settlement of this area by people from Europe. Native bees are important to the successful reproduction of many types of plants. Native bees and native plants developed together over a long period of time and depend upon each other. There are about 400 to 500 types of native bees in Illinois. There are so many different kinds of bees that it is hard to describe features that apply to all of them.
What Do They Look Like?
Bees have three body segments: head; thorax; and abdomen. They have six legs and four, thin wings. The forewing is a little larger than the hindwing. Their two antennae (for touch and smell) are long and segmented. They have branched hairs on some part of their body.
How Big Are They?
Size varies by species, but most of the native bees in Illinois range from one-tenth of an inch in length to one inch in length.
Where Do They Live?
Native bees live in wetland, woodland, grassland and urban habitats. Their life cycle includes four stages: egg; larva; pupa; and adult. Bees must have a place to lay their eggs where their larval and pupal stages can develop safely. They construct nests to raise their young. Some bees nest in the ground. They often choose a bare, sunny spot and dig a tunnel to raise their young. About 30 percent of native bees nest in holes. The mason and leafcutter bees use existing holes in hollow stems, dead wood and rock crevices for nest sites. Carpenter bees excavate holes in wood to form a chamber for their eggs. Other locations may be used as bee nesting sites, too.
How Do They Reproduce?
Bees have complicated reproductive cycles. We will only talk about the types of cycles here. Solitary native bees make and care for their own nest. They may live with other bees of their own kind nearby, or they may prefer to be away from all other bees. Communal bees are solitary bees that use a single entrance to the nesting site, but each bee digs its own nest from that point. Semisocial bees work together to raise their young with the colony only lasting one year. The mother and her offspring do not inhabit the colony at the same time. Eusocial bees live in a single nest with the inhabitants sharing the reproductive and nest-making functions. These bees include a mother and her daughters in a complex system. Cuckoo bees are nest parasites and rely on other bees to raise their young.
Fertilized eggs produce females. Males develop from unfertilized eggs.
In the nest, a mixture of pollen, nectar and saliva is formed into loaves. Each egg is provided with a pollen loaf in a single cell. Mud, leaf pieces and sawdust are all types of materials used to build partitions between cells. When the larva emerges from the egg, it feeds on the pollen loaf until it is time to enter the pupal stage.
What Do They Eat?
Both the larva and the adult feed on nectar and pollen.
Does Anything Eat Them?
Yes! Native bee adults and larvae are eaten by a variety of species including other insects, spiders, lizards, birds and mammals (mice, skunks, weasels, badgers, voles).