What are the various types of plugs found in a bee house and how do they help us with identification?

I have a Mason bee house with small tubes that is currently buzzing with life but I am completely clueless about what's in there. Some plugs seem made of clay, some of crushed leaves, some of resin, some look like just a little film…

I figure it's possible to learn about what is living in there (approximately) going by the type of plug, and maybe the size of the tube, but I don't know where to start. I'm in Eastern Canada if this makes a difference.

Not an expert on bees, but there 39 known genera of solitary bees in eastern Canada1. That reference contains a key, so at very least you can start to identify your tenants when they emerge next year.

The clay plugs are due to one of the genera of "mason bees", but that doesn't really appear to narrow things down much.

Your area does have "leafcutter bees" in the genus Megachile that use cut leaves to line and separate the chambers of their nests1,2, so that probably explains the holes containing crushed leaves.

There are also "resin bees", but the only species in your area (Paranthidium jugatorium) I've read about that fits that description is supposed to nest in the ground.1

Finally, bees in the genus Hylaeus and Colletes are known to use a membrane rather than a plug.2

1: Packer, L., Genaro, J. A., & Sheffield, C. S. (2007). The bee genera of eastern Canada. Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification, 3(3), 1-32.

2: Michener, C. D. (2000). The bees of the world (Vol. 1). JHU press.

ETA: A guides to wasps in your region from the Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification may also be of help.


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Early history Edit

Depictions of humans collecting honey from wild bees date to 10,000 years ago. [2] Beekeeping in pottery vessels began about 9,000 years ago in North Africa. [3] Domestication of bees is shown in Egyptian art from around 4,500 years ago. [4] Simple hives and smoke were used and honey was stored in jars, some of which were found in the tombs of pharaohs such as Tutankhamun. It wasn't until the 18th century that European understanding of the colonies and biology of bees allowed the construction of the movable comb hive so that honey could be harvested without destroying the entire colony.

At some point humans began to attempt to maintain colonies of wild bees in artificial hives made from hollow logs, wooden boxes, pottery vessels, and woven straw baskets or "skeps". Traces of beeswax are found in potsherds throughout the Middle East beginning about 7000 BCE. [3]

Honeybees were kept in Egypt from antiquity. [5] On the walls of the sun temple of Nyuserre Ini from the Fifth Dynasty, before 2422 BCE, workers are depicted blowing smoke into hives as they are removing honeycombs. [6] Inscriptions detailing the production of honey are found on the tomb of Pabasa from the Twenty-sixth Dynasty (c. 650 BCE), depicting pouring honey in jars and cylindrical hives. [7] Sealed pots of honey were found in the grave goods of pharaohs such as Tutankhamun.

I am Shamash-resh-ușur, the governor of Suhu and the land of Mari. Bees that collect honey, which none of my ancestors had ever seen or brought into the land of Suhu, I brought down from the mountain of the men of Habha, and made them settle in the orchards of the town 'Gabbari-built-it'. They collect honey and wax, and I know how to melt the honey and wax – and the gardeners know too. Whoever comes in the future, may he ask the old men of the town, (who will say) thus: "They are the buildings of Shamash-resh-ușur, the governor of Suhu, who introduced honey bees into the land of Suhu."

Oldest archaeological finds directly relating to beekeeping have been discovered at Rehov, a Bronze and Iron Age archaeological site in the Jordan Valley, Israel. [9] Thirty intact hives, made of straw and unbaked clay, were discovered by archaeologist Amihai Mazar in the ruins of the city, dating from about 900 BCE. The hives were found in orderly rows, three high, in a manner that could have accommodated around 100 hives, held more than 1 million bees and had a potential annual yield of 500 kilograms of honey and 70 kilograms of beeswax, according to Mazar, and are evidence that an advanced honey industry existed in ancient Israel 3,000 years ago. [10] [11] [12]

In ancient Greece (Crete and Mycenae), there existed a system of high-status apiculture, as can be concluded from the finds of hives, smoking pots, honey extractors and other beekeeping paraphernalia in Knossos. Beekeeping was considered a highly valued industry controlled by beekeeping overseers—owners of gold rings depicting apiculture scenes rather than religious ones as they have been reinterpreted recently, contra Sir Arthur Evans. [13] Aspects of the lives of bees and beekeeping are discussed at length by Aristotle. Beekeeping was also documented by the Roman writers Virgil, Gaius Julius Hyginus, Varro, and Columella.

Beekeeping has also been practiced in ancient China since antiquity. In a book written by Fan Li (or Tao Zhu Gong) during the Spring and Autumn period there are sections describing the art of beekeeping, stressing the importance of the quality of the wooden box used and how this can affect the quality of the honey. [ citation needed ] The Chinese word for honey ( 蜜 , reconstructed Old Chinese pronunciation *mjit ) was borrowed from Indo-European proto-Tocharian language, [ citation needed ] the source of "honey", from proto-Tocharian *ḿət(ə) (where *ḿ is palatalized cf. Tocharian B mit), cognate with English mead.

The ancient Maya domesticated a separate species of stingless bee, which they used for several purposes, including making balché, a mead-like alcoholic drink. [14] The use of stingless bees is referred to as meliponiculture, named after bees of the tribe Meliponini—such as Melipona quadrifasciata in Brazil. This variation of bee keeping still occurs around the world today. [15] For instance, in Australia, the stingless bee Tetragonula carbonaria is kept for production of their honey. [16]

Scientific study of honey bees Edit

It was not until the 18th century that European natural philosophers undertook the scientific study of bee colonies and began to understand the complex and hidden world of bee biology. Preeminent among these scientific pioneers were Swammerdam, René Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur, Charles Bonnet, and François Huber. Swammerdam and Réaumur were among the first to use a microscope and dissection to understand the internal biology of honey bees. Réaumur was among the first to construct a glass walled observation hive to better observe activities within hives. He observed queens laying eggs in open cells, but still had no idea of how a queen was fertilized nobody had ever witnessed the mating of a queen and drone and many theories held that queens were "self-fertile," while others believed that a vapor or "miasma" emanating from the drones fertilized queens without direct physical contact. Huber was the first to prove by observation and experiment that queens are physically inseminated by drones outside the confines of hives, usually a great distance away.

Following Réaumur's design, Huber built improved glass-walled observation hives and sectional hives that could be opened like the leaves of a book. This allowed inspecting individual wax combs and greatly improved direct observation of hive activity. Although he went blind before he was twenty, Huber employed a secretary, François Burnens, to make daily observations, conduct careful experiments, and keep accurate notes over more than twenty years. Huber confirmed that a hive consists of one queen who is the mother of all the female workers and male drones in the colony. He was also the first to confirm that mating with drones takes place outside of hives and that queens are inseminated by a number of successive matings with male drones, high in the air at a great distance from their hive. Together, he and Burnens dissected bees under the microscope and were among the first to describe the ovaries and spermatheca, or sperm store, of queens as well as the penis of male drones. Huber is universally regarded as "the father of modern bee-science" and his "Nouvelles Observations sur Les Abeilles (or "New Observations on Bees") [17] revealed all the basic scientific truths for the biology and ecology of honeybees.

Invention of the movable comb hive Edit

Early forms of honey collecting entailed the destruction of the entire colony when the honey was harvested. The wild hive was crudely broken into, using smoke to suppress the bees, the honeycombs were torn out and smashed up — along with the eggs, larvae and honey they contained. The liquid honey from the destroyed brood nest was strained through a sieve or basket. This was destructive and unhygienic, but for hunter-gatherer societies this did not matter, since the honey was generally consumed immediately and there were always more wild colonies to exploit. But in settled societies the destruction of the bee colony meant the loss of a valuable resource this drawback made beekeeping both inefficient and something of a "stop and start" activity. There could be no continuity of production and no possibility of selective breeding, since each bee colony was destroyed at harvest time, along with its precious queen.

During the medieval period abbeys and monasteries were centers of beekeeping, since beeswax was highly prized for candles and fermented honey was used to make alcoholic mead in areas of Europe where vines would not grow. The 18th and 19th centuries saw successive stages of a revolution in beekeeping, which allowed the bees themselves to be preserved when taking the harvest.

Intermediate stages in the transition from the old beekeeping to the new were recorded for example by Thomas Wildman in 1768/1770, who described advances over the destructive old skep-based beekeeping so that the bees no longer had to be killed to harvest the honey. [18] Wildman for example fixed a parallel array of wooden bars across the top of a straw hive or skep (with a separate straw top to be fixed on later) "so that there are in all seven bars of deal" [in a 10-inch-diameter (250 mm) hive] "to which the bees fix their combs". [19] He also described using such hives in a multi-storey configuration, foreshadowing the modern use of supers: he described adding (at a proper time) successive straw hives below, and eventually removing the ones above when free of brood and filled with honey, so that the bees could be separately preserved at the harvest for a following season. Wildman also described [20] a further development, using hives with "sliding frames" for the bees to build their comb, foreshadowing more modern uses of movable-comb hives. Wildman's book acknowledged the advances in knowledge of bees previously made by Swammerdam, Maraldi, and de Réaumur—he included a lengthy translation of Réaumur's account of the natural history of bees—and he also described the initiatives of others in designing hives for the preservation of bee-life when taking the harvest, citing in particular reports from Brittany dating from the 1750s, due to Comte de la Bourdonnaye. However, the forerunners of the modern hives with movable frames that are mainly used today are considered the traditional basket top bar (movable comb) hives of Greece, known as “Greek beehives”, which also allowed the beekeeper to avoid killing the bees. [21] The oldest testimony on their use dates back to 1669 although it is probable that their use is more than 3000 years old. [22]

The 19th century saw this revolution in beekeeping practice completed through the perfection of the movable comb hive by the American Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth. Langstroth was the first person to make practical use of Huber's earlier discovery that there was a specific spatial measurement between the wax combs, later called the bee space, which bees do not block with wax, but keep as a free passage. Having determined this bee space (between 5 and 8 mm or 1 ⁄ 4 and 3 ⁄ 8 in), Langstroth then designed a series of wooden frames within a rectangular hive box, carefully maintaining the correct space between successive frames, and found that the bees would build parallel honeycombs in the box without bonding them to each other or to the hive walls. This enables the beekeeper to slide any frame out of the hive for inspection, without harming the bees or the comb, protecting the eggs, larvae and pupae contained within the cells. It also meant that combs containing honey could be gently removed and the honey extracted without destroying the comb. The emptied honey combs could then be returned to the bees intact for refilling. Langstroth's book, The Hive and Honey-bee, published in 1853, described his rediscovery of the bee space and the development of his patent movable comb hive.

The invention and development of the movable-comb-hive fostered the growth of commercial honey production on a large scale in both Europe and the US (see also Beekeeping in the United States).

Evolution of hive designs Edit

Langstroth's design for movable comb hives was seized upon by apiarists and inventors on both sides of the Atlantic and a wide range of moveable comb hives were designed and perfected in England, France, Germany and the United States. Classic designs evolved in each country: Dadant hives and Langstroth hives are still dominant in the US in France the De-Layens trough-hive became popular and in the UK a British National hive became standard as late as the 1930s although in Scotland the smaller Smith hive is still popular. In some Scandinavian countries and in Russia the traditional trough hive persisted until late in the 20th century and is still kept in some areas. However, the Langstroth and Dadant designs remain ubiquitous in the US and also in many parts of Europe, though Sweden, Denmark, Germany, France and Italy all have their own national hive designs. Regional variations of hive evolved to reflect the climate, floral productivity and the reproductive characteristics of the various subspecies of native honey bee in each bio-region.

The differences in hive dimensions are insignificant in comparison to the common factors in all these hives: they are all square or rectangular they all use movable wooden frames they all consist of a floor, brood-box, honey super, crown-board and roof. Hives have traditionally been constructed of cedar, pine, or cypress wood, but in recent years hives made from injection molded dense polystyrene have become increasingly important.

Hives also use queen excluders between the brood-box and honey supers to keep the queen from laying eggs in cells next to those containing honey intended for consumption. Also, with the advent in the 20th century of mite pests, hive floors are often replaced for part of (or the whole) year with a wire mesh and removable tray.

In 2015 the Flow Hive system was invented in Australia by Cedar Anderson and his father Stuart Anderson, [23] allowing honey to be extracted without expensive centrifuge equipment.

Pioneers of practical and commercial beekeeping Edit

The 19th century produced an explosion of innovators and inventors who improved the design and production of beehives, systems of management and husbandry, stock improvement by selective breeding, honey extraction and marketing. Preeminent among these innovators were:

Petro Prokopovych used frames with channels in the side of the woodwork these were packed side by side in boxes that were stacked one on top of the other. The bees traveled from frame to frame and box to box via the channels. The channels were similar to the cutouts in the sides of modern wooden sections [24] (1814).

Jan Dzierżon was the father of modern apiology and apiculture. All modern beehives are descendants of his design.

François Huber made significant discoveries regarding the bee life-cycle and communication between bees. Despite being blind, Huber brought to light a large amount of information regarding the queen bee's mating habits and her contact with the rest of the hive. His work was published as New Observations on the Natural History of Bees.

L. L. Langstroth revered as the "father of American apiculture" no other individual has influenced modern beekeeping practice more than Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth. His classic book The Hive and Honey-bee was published in 1853.

Moses Quinby often termed "the father of commercial beekeeping in the United States," author of Mysteries of Bee-Keeping Explained. He invented the Bee smoker in 1873. [25] [26]

Amos Root author of the A B C of Bee Culture, which has been continuously revised and remains in print. Root pioneered the manufacture of hives and the distribution of bee-packages in the United States.

A. J. Cook author of The Bee-Keepers' Guide or Manual of the Apiary, 1876.

Dr. C.C. Miller was one of the first entrepreneurs actually to make a living from apiculture. By 1878 he made beekeeping his sole business activity. His book, Fifty Years Among the Bees, remains a classic, and his influence on bee management persists to this day.

Franz Hruschka was an Austrian/Italian military officer who made one important invention that catalyzed the commercial honey industry. In 1865 he invented the simple machine for extracting honey from the comb by means of centrifugal force. His original idea was to support combs in a metal framework and then spin them around within a container to collect honey as it was thrown out by centrifugal force. This meant that honeycombs could be returned to a hive undamaged but empty, saving the bees a vast amount of work, time, and materials. This single invention significantly improved the efficiency of honey harvesting and catalyzed the modern honey industry. [27]

Walter T. Kelley was an American pioneer of modern beekeeping in the early and mid-20th century. He greatly improved upon beekeeping equipment and clothing and went on to manufacture these items as well as other equipment. His company sold via catalog worldwide, and his book, How to Keep Bees & Sell Honey, an introductory book of apiculture and marketing, allowed for a boom in beekeeping following World War II.

In the U.K., practical beekeeping was led in the early 20th century by a few men, pre-eminently Brother Adam and his Buckfast bee and R.O.B. Manley, author of many titles, including Honey Production in the British Isles and inventor of the Manley frame, still universally popular in the U.K. Other notable British pioneers include William Herrod-Hempsall and Gale.

Dr. Ahmed Zaky Abushady (1892–1955) was an Egyptian poet, medical doctor, bacteriologist, and bee scientist who was active in England and Egypt in the early part of the twentieth century. In 1919, Abushady patented a removable, standardized aluminum honeycomb. In 1919 he also founded The Apis Club in Benson, Oxfordshire, and its periodical Bee World, which was to be edited by Annie D. Betts and later by Dr. Eva Crane. The Apis Club was transitioned to the International Bee Research Association (IBRA). Its archives are held in the National Library of Wales. In Egypt in the 1930s, Abushady established The Bee Kingdom League and its organ, The Bee Kingdom.

In India, R. N. Mattoo was the pioneer worker in starting beekeeping with Indian honeybee (Apis cerana indica) in the early 1930s. Beekeeping with European honeybee (Apis mellifera) was created by Dr. A. S. Atwal and his team members, O. P. Sharma and N. P. Goyal Punjab in the early 1960s. It remained confined to Punjab and Himachal Pradesh up to the late 1970s. Later on, in 1982, Dr. R. C. Sihag, working at Haryana Agricultural University, Hisar (Haryana), introduced and established this honeybee in Haryana and standardized its management practices in semi-arid-subtropical climates. Based on these practices, beekeeping with this honeybee could be extended to the rest of the country. Now beekeeping with Apis mellifera predominates in India.

Fixed comb hives Edit

A fixed comb hive is a hive in which the combs cannot be removed or manipulated for management or harvesting without permanently damaging the comb. Almost any hollow structure can be used for this purpose, such as a log gum, skep, wooden box, or a clay pot or tube. Fixed comb hives are no longer in common use in industrialized countries, and are illegal in places that require movable combs to inspect for problems such as varroa and American foulbrood. In many developing countries fixed comb hives are widely used because they can be made from any locally available material.

Beekeeping using fixed comb hives is an essential part of the livelihoods of many communities in poor countries. The charity Bees for Development recognizes that local skills to manage bees in fixed comb hives [28] are widespread in Africa, Asia, and South America. Internal size of fixed comb hives range from 32.7 liters (2000 cubic inches) typical of the clay tube hives used in Egypt to 282 liters (17209 cubic inches) for the Perone hive. Straw skeps, bee gums, and unframed box hives are unlawful in most US states, as the comb and brood cannot be inspected for diseases. However, skeps are still used for collecting swarms by hobbyists in the UK, before moving them into standard hives. Quinby used box hives to produce so much honey that he saturated the New York market in the 1860s. His writings contain excellent advice for management of bees in fixed comb hives.

Commercial beekeeping Edit

Commercial Beekeeping occurs when a company possesses upwards of 300 hives and sells honey, beeswax, and other bee products for profit. A non-commercial beekeeper would typically keep less than 25 hives at one time. Commercial beekeeping companies are usually owned by a family and passed down to the next generation. Commercial beekeepers sell massive amounts of honey so their production output is categorized by state. The United States produced about 41.3 million pound of honey in 2016. In 2016, the top 5 production output states were North Dakota, Montana, South Dakota, Florida, and California. Honey is often imported to meet consumer demands. 410 million pounds of honey was consumed in 2010 and the demand for honey has continued to rise. [29]

Horizontal hives Edit

The initial costs and equipment requirements are typically much less than other hive designs scrap wood can often be used to build a good hive including the top bars themselves. They do not require frequent lifting of heavy boxes, it is easy to inspect and remove all the combs. Disadvantages include (usually) unsupported combs that cannot be spun in most honey extractors, and it is not usually easy to expand the hive if additional honey storage space is required.

Horizontal top-bar hives are being widely used in developing countries in Africa and Asia. A growing number of beekeepers in the U.S.A. and UK are using various top-bar hives. [30]

Vertical stackable hives Edit

There are three types of vertical stackable hives: hanging or top-access frame, sliding or side-access frame, and top bar.

Hanging frame hives include Langstroth, the British National, Dadant, Layens, and Rose, differing primarily by size or number of frames. The Langstroth was the first successful top-opened hive with movable frames. Many other hive designs are based on the principle of bee space first described by Langstroth, and is a descendant of Jan Dzierzon's Polish hive designs. Langstroth hives are the most common size in the United States and much of the world the British National is the most common size in the United Kingdom Dadant and Modified Dadant hives are widely used in France and Italy, and Layens by some beekeepers, where their large size is an advantage. Square Dadant hives–often called 12 frame Dadant or Brother Adam hives–are used in large parts of Germany and other parts of Europe by commercial beekeepers.

Any hanging frame hive design can be built as a sliding frame design. The AZ Hive, the original sliding frame design, integrates hives using Langstroth-sized frames into a honey house so as to streamline the workflow of honey harvest by localization of labor, similar to cellular manufacturing. The honey house can be a portable trailer, allowing the beekeeper to haul the hives to a site and provide pollination services.

Top bar stackable hives simply use top bars instead of full frames. The most common type is the Warre hive, although any hive with hanging frames can be made into a top bar stackable hive by using only the top bar and not the whole frame. This may work less-well with larger frames, where crosscomb and attachment can occur more-readily.

Protective clothing Edit

Most beekeepers also wear some protective clothing. Novice beekeepers usually wear gloves and a hooded suit or hat and veil. Experienced beekeepers sometimes elect not to use gloves because they inhibit delicate manipulations. The face and neck are the most important areas to protect, so most beekeepers wear at least a veil. [31] Defensive bees are attracted to the breath, and a sting on the face can lead to much more pain and swelling than a sting elsewhere, while a sting on a bare hand can usually be quickly removed by fingernail scrape to reduce the amount of venom injected.

Traditionally beekeeping clothing was pale colored and this is still very common today. This is because of the natural color of cotton and cost of coloring was an expense not warranted for workwear, though some consider this is to provide better differentiation from the colony's natural predators (such as bears and skunks) which tend to be dark-colored. It is now known that bees see in ultraviolet and are also attracted to scent. So the type of fabric conditioner used has more impact than the color of the fabric. [32] [33]

'Stings' retained in clothing fabric continue to pump out an alarm pheromone that attracts aggressive action and further stinging attacks. Washing suits regularly, and rinsing gloved hands in vinegar minimizes attraction.

Smoker Edit

Smoke is the beekeeper's third line of defense. Most beekeepers use a "smoker", which is a device designed to generate smoke from the incomplete combustion of various fuels. Although the exact mechanism is disputed, it is clear that smoke calms bees. Some claim it initiates a feeding response in anticipation of possible hive abandonment due to fire. [34] It is also thought that smoke masks alarm pheromones released by guard bees or when bees are squashed in an inspection. The ensuing confusion creates an opportunity for the beekeeper to open the hive and work without triggering a defensive reaction. In addition, when a bee consumes honey the bee's abdomen distends, which is theorized to make it difficult to make the necessary flexes to sting, though this has not been tested scientifically.

Many types of fuel can be used in a smoker as long as it is natural and not contaminated with harmful substances. These fuels include hessian, twine, burlap, pine needles, corrugated cardboard, and mostly rotten or punky wood. Indian beekeepers, especially in Kerala, often use coconut fibers as they are readily available, safe, and of negligible expense. Some beekeeping supply sources also sell commercial fuels like pulped paper and compressed cotton, or even aerosol cans of smoke. Other beekeepers use sumac as fuel because it ejects much smoke and lacks an odor.

Some beekeepers are using "liquid smoke" as a safer, more convenient alternative. It is a water-based solution that is sprayed onto the bees from a plastic spray bottle.

Torpor may also be induced by the introduction of chilled air into the hive – while chilled carbon dioxide may have harmful long-term effects. [35]

Effects of stings and of protective measures Edit

Some beekeepers believe that the more stings a beekeeper receives, the less irritation each causes, and they consider it important for safety of the beekeeper to be stung a few times a season. Beekeepers have high levels of antibodies (mainly IgG) reacting to the major antigen of bee venom, phospholipase A2 (PLA). [36] Antibodies correlate with the frequency of bee stings.

The entry of venom into the body from bee-stings may also be hindered and reduced by protective clothing that allows the wearer to remove stings and venom sacs with a simple tug on the clothing. Although the stinger is barbed, a worker bee's stinger is less likely to become lodged into clothing than human skin.

Symptoms of a being stung include redness, swelling, and itching around the site of the sting. In mild cases, it will take about 2 hours for the pain and swelling to subside. In moderate cases, the red welt at the sting site with become slightly larger for 1-2 days before beginning to heal. A severe reaction, which is rare among beekeepers, results in anaphylactic shock. [37]

If a beekeeper is stung by a bee, there are many protective measures that should be taken in order to make sure the affected area does not become too irritated. The first cautionary step that should be taken following a bee sting is removing the stinger without squeezing the attached venom glands. A quick scrape with a fingernail is effective and intuitive. This step is effective in making sure that the venom injected does not spread, so the side effects of the sting will go away sooner. Washing the affected area with soap and water is also a good way to stop the spread of venom. The last step that needs to be taken is to apply ice or a cold compress to the stung area. [37]

Location of hives Edit

There has been considerable debate about the best location for hives. Virgil thought they should be located near clear springs, ponds or shallow brooks. Wildman thought they should face to the south or west. One thing all writers agreed on is that hives should be sheltered from strong winds. In hot climates, they were often placed under the shade of trees in summer. [38]

Beekeepers like to keep honey bees, which is not always the best for native bee species. Researchers found that domestic honey bees placed in national parks outcompeted native bee species for resources. This led to a decline in native bee species' populations. It is generally good practice to keep honey bees near crops and fruit trees where they won't negatively impact other bee species. [39]

Natural beekeeping Edit

The natural beekeeping movement believes that bee hives are weakened by modern beekeeping and agricultural practices, such as crop spraying, hive movement, frequent hive inspections, artificial insemination of queens, routine medication, and sugar water feeding. [40]

Practitioners of "natural beekeeping" tend to use variations of the top-bar hive, which is a simple design that retains the concept of having a movable comb without the use of frames or a foundation. The horizontal top-bar hive, as championed by Marty Hardison, Michael Bush, Philip Chandler, Dennis Murrell and others, can be seen as a modernization of hollow log hives, with the addition of wooden bars of specific width from which bees hang their combs. Its widespread adoption in recent years can be attributed to the publication in 2007 of The Barefoot Beekeeper [41] by Philip Chandler, which challenged many aspects of modern beekeeping and offered the horizontal top-bar hive as a viable alternative to the ubiquitous Langstroth-style movable-frame hive.

The most popular vertical top-bar hive is the Warré hive, based on a design by the French priest Abbé Émile Warré (1867–1951) and popularized by Dr. David Heaf in his English translation of Warré's book L'Apiculture pour Tous as Beekeeping For All. [42]

Urban or backyard beekeeping Edit

Related to natural beekeeping, urban beekeeping is an attempt to revert to a less industrialized way of obtaining honey by utilizing small-scale colonies that pollinate urban gardens.

Some have found that "city bees" are actually healthier than "rural bees" because there are fewer pesticides and greater biodiversity in the urban gardens. [43] Urban bees may fail to find forage, however, and homeowners can use their landscapes to help feed local bee populations by planting flowers that provide nectar and pollen. An environment of year-round, uninterrupted bloom creates an ideal environment for colony reproduction. [44]

Urban beekeepers are testing modern types of beehives, testing for urban contest and ease of use. In 2015 the FlowHive appeared and in 2018 Beeing, a hive made in Italy, that allows the beekeeper to extract honey without having contact with the bees.

Indoor beekeeping Edit

Modern beekeepers have experimented with raising bees indoors, in a controlled environment, or indoor observation hives. This may be done for reasons of space and monitoring or in the off-season. In the off-season, large commercial beekeepers may move colonies to "wintering" warehouses with fixed temperature, light, and humidity. This helps the bees remain healthy but relatively dormant. These relatively dormant or "wintered" bees survive on stored honey, and new bees are not born. [45]

Experiments in raising bees for longer durations indoors have looked into more precise and varying environment controls. In 2015, MIT's Synthetic Apiary project simulated springtime inside a closed environment for several hives throughout a winter. They provided food sources and simulated long days and saw activity and reproduction levels comparable to the levels seen outdoors in warm weather. They concluded that such an indoor apiary could be sustained year-round if needed. [46] [47]

Species Edit

There are more than 20,000 species of wild bees. [48] Many species are solitary [49] (e.g., mason bees, leafcutter bees (Megachilidae), carpenter bees and other ground-nesting bees). Many others rear their young in burrows and small colonies (e.g., bumblebees and stingless bees). Some honey bees are wild e.g. the little honeybee (Apis florea), giant honeybee (Apis dorsata) and rock bee (Apis laboriosa). Beekeeping, or apiculture, is concerned with the practical management of the social species of honey bees, which live in large colonies of up to 100,000 individuals. In Europe and America the species universally managed by beekeepers is the Western honey bee (Apis mellifera). This species has several sub-species, such as the Italian bee (Apis mellifera ligustica), European dark bee (Apis mellifera mellifera), and the Carniolan honey bee (Apis mellifera carnica). [50] In the tropics, other species of social bees are managed for honey production, including the Asiatic honey bee (Apis cerana).

Castes Edit

Bee castes refer to a social colonies of bees made up of individuals who look different depending on their specialized function. A colony of bees consists of three castes of bee: [51]

  • a queen bee, which is normally the only breeding female in the colony
  • a large number of female worker bees, typically 30,000–50,000 in number
  • a number of male drones, ranging from thousands in a strong hive in spring to very few during dearth or cold season.

The queen is the only sexually mature female in the hive and all of the female worker bees and male drones are her offspring. The queen may live for up to three years or more and may be capable of laying half a million eggs or more in her lifetime. At the peak of the breeding season, late spring to summer, a good queen may be capable of laying 3,000 eggs in one day, more than her own body weight. This would be exceptional however a prolific queen might peak at 2,000 eggs a day, but a more average queen might lay just 1,500 eggs per day. The queen is raised from a normal worker egg, but is fed a larger amount of royal jelly than a normal worker bee, resulting in a radically different growth and metamorphosis. The queen influences the colony by the production and dissemination of a variety of pheromones or "queen substances". One of these chemicals suppresses the development of ovaries in all the female worker bees in the hive and prevents them from laying eggs.

Mating of queens Edit

The queen emerges from her cell after 15 days of development and she remains in the hive for 3–7 days before venturing out on a mating flight. Mating flight is otherwise known as "nuptial flight". Her first orientation flight may only last a few seconds, just enough to mark the position of the hive. Subsequent mating flights may last from 5 minutes to 30 minutes, and she may mate with a number of male drones on each flight. Over several matings, possibly a dozen or more, the queen receives and stores enough sperm from a succession of drones to fertilize hundreds of thousands of eggs. If she does not manage to leave the hive to mate—possibly due to bad weather or being trapped in part of the hive—she remains infertile and becomes a drone layer, incapable of producing female worker bees. Worker bees sometimes kill a non-performing queen and produce another. Without a properly performing queen, the hive is doomed.

Mating takes place at some distance from the hive and often several hundred feet in the air it is thought that this separates the strongest drones from the weaker ones, ensuring that only the fastest and strongest drones get to pass on their genes.

Worker bees Edit

Most of the bees in a hive are female worker bees. At the height of summer when activity in the hive is frantic and work goes on non-stop, the life of a worker bee may be as short as 6 weeks in late autumn, when no brood is being raised and no nectar is being harvested, a young bee may live for 16 weeks, right through the winter.

Over the course of their lives, worker bees' duties are dictated by age. For the first few weeks of their lifespan, they perform basic chores within the hive: cleaning empty brood cells, removing debris and other housekeeping tasks, making wax for building or repairing comb, and feeding larvae. Later, they may ventilate the hive or guard the entrance. Older workers leave the hive daily, weather permitting, to forage for nectar, pollen, water, and propolis.

propolis foraging robbing other hives

Drones Edit

Drones are the largest bees in the hive (except for the queen), at almost twice the size of a worker bee. Note in the picture that they have much larger eyes than the workers have, presumably to better locate the queen during the mating flight. They do not work, do not forage for pollen or nectar, are unable to sting, and have no other known function than to mate with new queens and fertilize them on their mating flights. A bee colony generally starts to raise drones a few weeks before building queen cells so they can supersede a failing queen or prepare for swarming. When queen-raising for the season is over, bees in colder climates drive drones out of the hive to die, biting and tearing their legs and wings.

Differing stages of development Edit

Stage of development Queen Worker Drone
Egg 3 days 3 days 3 days
Larva (successive molts) 8 days 10 days 13 days
Cell Capped day 8 day 8 day 10
Pupa 4 days 8 days 8 days
Total 15 days 21 days 24 days

Structure of a bee colony Edit

A domesticated bee colony is normally housed in a rectangular hive body, within which eight to ten parallel frames house the vertical plates of honeycomb that contain the eggs, larvae, pupae and food for the colony. If one were to cut a vertical cross-section through the hive from side to side, the brood nest would appear as a roughly ovoid ball spanning 5–8 frames of comb. The two outside combs at each side of the hive tend to be exclusively used for long-term storage of honey and pollen.

Within the central brood nest, a single frame of comb typically has a central disk of eggs, larvae and sealed brood cells that may extend almost to the edges of the frame. Immediately above the brood patch an arch of pollen-filled cells extends from side to side, and above that again a broader arch of honey-filled cells extends to the frame tops. The pollen is protein-rich food for developing larvae, while honey is also food but largely energy rich rather than protein rich. The nurse bees that care for the developing brood secrete a special food called "royal jelly" after feeding themselves on honey and pollen. The amount of royal jelly fed to a larva determines whether it develops into a worker bee or a queen.

Apart from the honey stored within the central brood frames, the bees store surplus honey in combs above the brood nest. In modern hives the beekeeper places separate boxes, called "supers", above the brood box, in which a series of shallower combs is provided for storage of honey. This enables the beekeeper to remove some of the supers in the late summer, and to extract the surplus honey harvest, without damaging the colony of bees and its brood nest below. If all the honey is taken, including the amount of honey needed to survive winter, the beekeeper must replace these stores by feeding the bees sugar or corn syrup in autumn.

Annual cycle of a bee colony Edit

The development of a bee colony follows an annual cycle of growth that begins in spring with a rapid expansion of the brood nest, as soon as pollen is available for feeding larvae. Some production of brood may begin as early as January, even in a cold winter, but breeding accelerates towards a peak in May (in the northern hemisphere), producing an abundance of harvesting bees synchronized to the main nectar flow in that region. Each race of bees times this build-up slightly differently, depending on how the flora of its original region blooms. Some regions of Europe have two nectar flows: one in late spring and another in late August. Other regions have only a single nectar flow. The skill of the beekeeper lies in predicting when the nectar flow will occur in his area and in trying to ensure that his colonies achieve a maximum population of harvesters at exactly the right time.

The key factor in this is the prevention or skillful management of the swarming impulse. If a colony swarms unexpectedly and the beekeeper does not manage to capture the resulting swarm, he is likely to harvest significantly less honey from that hive, since he has lost half his worker bees at a single stroke. If, however, he can use the swarming impulse to breed a new queen but keep all the bees in the colony together, he maximizes his chances of a good harvest. It takes many years of learning and experience to be able to manage all these aspects successfully, though owing to variable circumstances many beginners often achieve a good honey harvest.

Colony reproduction: swarming and supersedure Edit

All colonies are totally dependent on their queen, who is the only egg-layer. However, even the best queens live only a few years and one or two years longevity is the norm. She can choose whether or not to fertilize an egg as she lays it if she does so, it develops into a female worker bee if she lays an unfertilized egg it becomes a male drone. She decides which type of egg to lay depending on the size of the open brood cell she encounters on the comb. In a small worker cell, she lays a fertilized egg if she finds a larger drone cell, she lays an unfertilized drone egg.

All the time that the queen is fertile and laying eggs she produces a variety of pheromones, which control the behavior of the bees in the hive. These are commonly called queen substance, but there are various pheromones with different functions. As the queen ages, she begins to run out of stored sperm, and her pheromones begin to fail. [52]

Inevitably, the queen begins to falter, and the bees decide to replace her by creating a new queen from one of her worker eggs. They may do this because she has been damaged (lost a leg or an antenna), because she has run out of sperm and cannot lay fertilized eggs (has become a "drone laying queen"), or because her pheromones have dwindled to where they cannot control all the bees in the hive. At this juncture, the bees produce one or more queen cells by modifying existing worker cells that contain a normal female egg. They then pursue one of two ways to replace the queen: supersedure, replacing or superseding the queen without swarming, or swarm cell production, dividing the hive into two colonies through swarming.

Supersedure is highly valued as a behavioral trait by beekeepers. A hive that supersedes its old queen does not lose any stock. Instead it creates a new queen and the old one fades away or is killed when the new queen emerges. In these hives, the bees produce just one or two queen cells, characteristically in the center of the face of a broodcomb.

Swarm cell production involves creating many queen cells, typically a dozen or more. These are located around the edges of a broodcomb, often at the sides and the bottom.

Once either process has begun, the old queen leaves the hive with the hatching of the first queen cells. She leaves accompanied by a large number of bees, predominantly young bees (wax-secretors), who form the basis of the new hive. Scouts are sent out from the swarm to find suitable hollow trees or rock crevices. As soon as one is found, the entire swarm moves in. Within a matter of hours, they build new wax brood combs, using honey stores that the young bees have filled themselves with before leaving the old hive. Only young bees can secrete wax from special abdominal segments, and this is why swarms tend to contain more young bees. Often a number of virgin queens accompany the first swarm (the "prime swarm"), and the old queen is replaced as soon as a daughter queen mates and begins laying. Otherwise, she is quickly superseded in the new home.

Different sub-species of Apis mellifera exhibit differing swarming characteristics. In general the more northerly black races are said to swarm less and supersede more, whereas the more southerly yellow and grey varieties are said to swarm more frequently. The truth is complicated because of the prevalence of cross-breeding and hybridization of the sub species.

Factors that trigger swarming Edit

Some beekeepers may monitor their colonies carefully in spring and watch for the appearance of queen cells, which are a dramatic signal that the colony is determined to swarm.

This swarm looks for shelter. A beekeeper may capture it and introduce it into a new hive, helping meet this need. Otherwise, it returns to a feral state, in which case it finds shelter in a hollow tree, excavation, abandoned chimney, or even behind shutters.

A small after-swarm has less chance of survival and may threaten the original hive's survival if the number of individuals left is unsustainable. When a hive swarms despite the beekeeper's preventative efforts, a good management practice is to give the reduced hive a couple frames of open brood with eggs. This helps replenish the hive more quickly and gives a second opportunity to raise a queen if there is a mating failure.

Each race or sub-species of honey bee has its own swarming characteristics. Italian bees are very prolific and inclined to swarm Northern European black bees have a strong tendency to supersede their old queen without swarming. These differences are the result of differing evolutionary pressures in the regions where each sub-species evolved.

Artificial swarming Edit

When a colony accidentally loses its queen, it is said to be "queenless". The workers realize that the queen is absent after as little as an hour, as her pheromones fade in the hive. Instinctively, the workers select cells containing eggs aged less than three days and enlarge these cells dramatically to form "emergency queen cells". These appear similar to large peanut-like structures about an inch long that hang from the center or side of the brood combs. The developing larva in a queen cell is fed differently from an ordinary worker-bee in addition to the normal honey and pollen, she receives a great deal of royal jelly, a special food secreted by young "nurse bees" from the hypopharyngeal gland. This special food dramatically alters the growth and development of the larva so that, after metamorphosis and pupation, it emerges from the cell as a queen bee. The queen is the only bee in a colony which has fully developed ovaries, and she secretes a pheromone which suppresses the normal development of ovaries in all her workers.

Beekeepers use the ability of the bees to produce new queens to increase their colonies in a procedure called splitting a colony. To do this, they remove several brood combs from a healthy hive, taking care to leave the old queen behind. These combs must contain eggs or larvae less than three days old and be covered by young nurse bees, which care for the brood and keep it warm. These brood combs and attendant nurse bees are then placed into a small "nucleus hive" with other combs containing honey and pollen. As soon as the nurse bees find themselves in this new hive and realize they have no queen, they set about constructing emergency queen cells using the eggs or larvae they have in the combs with them.

Diseases Edit

The common agents of disease that affect adult honey bees include fungi, bacteria, protozoa, viruses, parasites, and poisons. The gross symptoms displayed by affected adult bees are very similar, whatever the cause, making it difficult for the apiarist to ascertain the causes of problems without microscopic identification of microorganisms or chemical analysis of poisons. [53] Since 2006, colony losses from colony collapse disorder have been increasing across the world although the causes of the syndrome are, as yet, unknown. [54] [55] In the US, commercial beekeepers have been increasing the number of hives to deal with higher rates of attrition. [56]

Parasites Edit

Nosema apis is a microsporidian which causes the most common and widespread disease of the adult honey bee, nosemosis, also called nosema. [57]

Galleria mellonella and Achroia grisella “wax moth” larvae that hatch, tunnel through, and destroy comb that contains bee larvae and their honey stores. The tunnels they create are lined with silk, which entangles and starves emerging bees. Destruction of honeycombs also results in honey leaking and being wasted. A healthy hive can manage wax moths, but weak colonies, unoccupied hives, and stored frames can be decimated. [58]

Small hive beetle (Aethina tumida) is native to Africa but has now spread to most continents. It is a serious pest among honey bees unadapted to it. [59]

Varroa destructor, the Varroa mite, is an established pest of two species of honey bee through many parts of the world, and is blamed by many researchers as a leading cause of CCD. [60]

Acarapis woodi, the tracheal mite, infests the trachea of honey bees.

Predators Edit

Most predators prefer not to eat honeybees due to their unpleasant sting, but they still have some predators. These include large animals such as skunks or bears, which are after the honey and brood in the nest as well as the adult bees themselves. [61] Some birds will also eat bees (for example, bee-eaters, which are named for their bee-centric diet), as do some robber flies, such as Mallophora ruficauda, which is a pest of apiculture in South America due to its habit of eating workers while they are foraging in meadows. [62]


If you would like to host the next meeting, please email the google group listserve and let everyone know. It'd be great to have a monthly meeting through the spring and summer while the bees are active, so don't hesitate to round up the group.


Like bees, we specialized for different tasks. Matt cuts the boards all uniform. Eli makes best use of the whole roll of wire mesh.

Karl and his sloped-entrance prototype A finished stack of standard screen bottom boards. A finished bottom board with a medium hive box on top, showing the entrance and small landing strip for the bees.

Box Building Bonanza

On 2007-03, Fourteen collective members got together at Dave Tipton's woodshop in Davis to build medium-depth bee boxes. It was a long and rewarding day. We built 30 boxes complete with box-joint corners and rabbets for hanging frames. A full album and slide show of the event can be found here. Thanks to everyone who organized and participated in this event!


Honey Extraction Party

The Fall honey extraction party was on 2006-10. We had about a dozen folks show up and use extractors to spin out over 150 pounds of the good stuff. Thanks, bees!



Comparison of collection methods for native bees

Both the number of specimens collected and their taxonomic richness differed among the collection methods (Table 2). Targeted sweep netting was by far the most effective method for sampling bees with respect to both abundance and taxonomic unit richness, and blue vane traps were the next most effective in terms of absolute numbers (Table 2 Appendix S2: Table S1). However, when standardized to approximate an equal sampling duration to the other methods (3 h), blue vane traps caught a comparable number of bees to pan (Table 2).

Method Targeted sweep netting Blue vane Yellow vane Blue pan trap Yellow pan trap Large yellow pan trap
Individuals caught 1324 347 (3.86)‡ ‡ Numbers in parentheses are divided by 90 to standardize results to 3 h in order to quantitatively compare results with the other methods.
15 (0.17)‡ ‡ Numbers in parentheses are divided by 90 to standardize results to 3 h in order to quantitatively compare results with the other methods.
8 15 6
Taxonomic units caught† † Given variation in body size between sexes (K. S. Prendergast, unpublished data), and known differences in color preferences between sexes (Heneberg and Bogusch 2014 ), for species where both sexes were collected, these were treated as distinct taxonomic units.
134 31 (0.34)‡ ‡ Numbers in parentheses are divided by 90 to standardize results to 3 h in order to quantitatively compare results with the other methods.
10 (0.11)‡ ‡ Numbers in parentheses are divided by 90 to standardize results to 3 h in order to quantitatively compare results with the other methods.
7 6 5
Genera caught 20 11 7 4 3 2
Families caught 4 4 4 3 3 2
  • † Given variation in body size between sexes (K. S. Prendergast, unpublished data), and known differences in color preferences between sexes (Heneberg and Bogusch 2014 ), for species where both sexes were collected, these were treated as distinct taxonomic units.
  • ‡ Numbers in parentheses are divided by 90 to standardize results to 3 h in order to quantitatively compare results with the other methods.

Blue vane traps caught more individuals and taxonomic units than yellow vane traps, whereas yellow pan traps were more effective than blue pan traps. Large (non-UV) yellow pan traps were the least effective (Table 2).

There were significant differences in number of individual native bees caught between the different methods (P < 0.0001 Appendix S2: Table S1). All pairwise comparisons between targeted sweep netting and all passive methods were significantly different (P < 0.0001). All pairwise comparisons between blue vane traps and other methods were significantly different (P < 0.0001 Appendix S2: Table S2), but were not once vane trap data were standardized (P > 0.05 Appendix S5: Table S2). There was a significant method × habitat interaction (P < 0.0001 Appendix S2: Table S1), but the main findings of the superiority of targeted sweep netting were consistent across habitats (Fig. 2).

Taxonomic unit richness also differed between sampling methods (P < 0.0001, Appendix S2: Table S3, Appendix S3: Table S1), following a similar pattern to that for abundances (Appendix S2: Table S4). Targeted sweep netting caught over 90% of all taxonomic units (Table 2). Blue pan traps caught slightly more taxonomic units than yellow pan traps, but the difference was nonsignificant (Table 2 Appendix S2: Table S4). As with abundance, blue vane traps caught more taxonomic units overall than the other passive methods (Table 2 Appendix S2: Table S4), but not when catch rates were standardized to three hours (Table 2 Appendix S5: Table S4). There was no method × habitat interaction (P = 0.376 Appendix S2: Table S3).

Of the 145 taxonomic units (separate for each sex), of those with n ≥ 10, all 43 were collected at higher frequencies by targeted sweep netting except for four: Amegilla chlorocyanea (female 196 blue vane, 17 targeted sweep netting, 2 yellow vane, and 1 blue pan trap) A. chlorocyanea (male 68 blue vane and 9 targeted sweep netting) the kleptoparasite of Amegilla, Thyreus waroonensis (female 11 blue vane and 2 targeted sweep netting) and Lasioglossum (Chilalictus) castor (female 14 blue vane, 12 targeted sweep netting, 9 yellow pan trap, 4 yellow vane, and 2 blue pan trap Appendix S3: Table S1).

No species were exclusive to large yellow pan traps or UV-blue or UV-yellow pan traps. Only two species, Lasioglossum (Chilalictus) sp.12 (female) and Braunsapis nitida (female), both singletons, were exclusive to yellow vane traps. Five taxonomic units were exclusive to blue vane traps (Lasioglossum (Chilalictus) lanarium [male], Lasioglossum (Chilalictus) inflatum [female], Homalictus (Homalictus) sphecodoides [female], all singletons, Euryglossula fultoni [male, n = 3], and L. (Chilalictus) lanarium [female, n = 4]). By contrast, 98 taxonomic units were captured exclusively by targeted sweep netting (Appendix S3: Table S1).

There was a significant sex × method interaction (P = 0.0002), indicating that the sexes were sampled differently depending on the method used (Appendix S2: Table S5).

Rarefaction curves and Chao estimates followed the same general pattern based on the observed numbers of taxonomic units by sampling method (Table 3 Appendix S4: Fig. S1). While the passive sampling methods followed a shallow incline with increasing sampling effort (Appendix S4: Fig. S1), the netting followed a curvilinear pattern and had still yet to plateau (Appendix S4: Fig. S1), indicating that despite high sampling effort, more taxonomic units were likely with increased sampling effort. Considering the taxonomic units captured as a percentage of the Chao 1 estimate, netting, large yellow pans, and blue pans had values above 70%, whereas the number collected in the blue vanes was only 55.6% of the estimated value, and for the yellow vane and yellow pan traps, taxonomic unit richness was only 46.7% and 44.5%, respectively, of the estimated value (Table 3). It should be noted that the confidence intervals of the Chao 1 estimates were relatively wide (Table 3).

Method Observed Chao 1 mean 95% CI lower bound 95% CI upper bound Chao 1 SD %obs of Chao 1
Large yellow pans 4 5.2 4.12 16.5 2.14 76.9
Yellow pans 6 13.5 6.92 66.7 10.9 44.5
Blue pans 9 12.4 9.58 29.4 3.9 72.3
Yellow vanes 10 21.4 12.1 73.8 12.3 46.7
Blue vanes 32 57.5 39.4 119.9 17.9 55.6
Targeted sweep netting 134 181.5 154.6 243.5 21.2 73.8


  • CI, confidence intervals SD, standard deviation %obs, percentage of the observed number of taxonomic units is of that calculated by the Chao 1 analysis.

A Bray–Curtis similarity matrix of species composition revealed that of the five collection methods, pan traps of different colors were the most similar. Both blue and yellow vanes were more similar to blue pan traps than yellow pan traps. The most successful method—targeted sweep netting—had a species composition most similar to blue vane traps, but low similarity to the other methods (Table 4). An NMDS analysis comparing taxonomic composition between the methods had low stress (0.01), indicating a good fit to the data, and depicted that the two small UV-reflective pan traps were most similar to each other (Fig. 3). Taxonomic composition of the bees caught in large yellow pan traps was most dissimilar to all other methods. Targeted sweep netting was also dissimilar to all other methods, but most similar to blue vanes.

Method Targeted sweep netting Blue vane Yellow vane Blue pan trap Yellow pan trap Large yellow pan trap
Targeted sweep netting
Blue vane 23.75
Yellow vane 5.68 15.77
Blue pan trap 4.15 21.36 24.53
Yellow pan trap 4.01 15.04 22.31 30.58
Large yellow pan trap 2.53 5.88 0.00 14.11 0.00

Native bees observed vs. targeted sweep netting

Due to being inaccessible (out of reach of the entomological sweep net) or to the difficulty in catching rapid-flying taxa, not all bees that were observed were netted. Out of a total 5299 native bees recorded by active sampling, 1324 were netted and 4366 were observed: a ratio of observed to netted bees of 1:3. Across all surveys, a mean of 6.32 ± 1.07 (standard error) bees were netted vs. 17.16 ± 4.01 observed. The proportion of netted bees to observed bees did not differ according to habitat (P = 0.147 Appendix S2: Table S2). There were, however, significant differences between taxa in the proportion of bees netted relative to that of bees observed (<0.001 Table 5 Appendix S2: Table S6), with differences in most pairwise comparisons between taxa (Tukey's post hoc test Appendix S2: Table S7). The greatest differences in netted:observed catch rates were for the genus Amegilla, which included only a single, large-bodied species (A. chlorocynea), and for Exoneura, a genus of small social bee. For Amegilla, the larger numbers observed relative to netted related to their extremely fast, erratic flight and short duration alighting at flower. For Exoneura, the high observed:netted ratio was likely due to the large numbers that often forage simultaneously on bushes, making netting some individuals easy yet impossible to catch all that were foraging. Excluding the rarely encountered taxa, most taxa were observed more frequently than netted, except for Meroglossa, represented by a single species (M. rubricata) that was often observed in trap-nests but seldom foraging, and Lipotriches, mainly represented by L. flavoviridis, a common species present at most sites and foraging on a wide range of flora.

Very rapid, zipping flight, seldom alights long on flowers

In reach of sweep nets, often foraging on vegetation that can be sweep netted

Seldom encountered singly

Flying rapidly around inflorescences often in a cloud

Never on ground-level flora prefer branches of flowering trees but if within reach are relatively easy to capture by sweeping through cloud

Intermediate flight speed

Seldom encountered singly

Prefer shrubs and trees to forage on, never at ground level

Intermediate flight speed

Prefer shrubs and trees to forage on, never at ground level

Seldom encountered singly

Flying rapidly around inflorescences often in a cloud

Never on ground-level flora prefer branches of flowering trees but if within reach are relatively easy to capture by sweeping through cloud

Males may be territorial around flowers

Intermediate flight speed

Forage at multiple heights, including low-lying flora

Intermediate flight speed

Often forage on low-lying flora

Intermediate flight speed

Buzz pollinators—stay on flowers for a longer period of time

Forage at various heights, including ground level

Alight only briefly on flowers

Forage at various heights, including ground level

Intermediate flight speed

Frequently observed just resting inside entrances of trap-nests

Intermediate flight speed

Prefer shrubs and trees to forage on, never at ground level

  • Body size categories: small, 0.48–1.78 mm ITD medium, 1.79–3.10 mm large, 3.11–4.41 mm. Categories were based on subtracting the minimum body size, as measured by intertegular distance (ITD), from the maximum and dividing by three.

Observed vs. passive collections

Both native bees and honeybees were surveyed using observational recording and passive collections. For both, observational counts vastly exceeded numbers recorded by all passive sampling methods combined. A total of 572 honeybees were collected across all passive sampling methods, whereas 19,825 were observed, amounting to numbers observed being 34.7 times greater than numbers caught by the passive traps. Numbers of native bees observed were 11-fold greater than those caught passively (391 native bee individuals caught by passive traps, compared with 4366 being observed), despite there being more passive than active methods employed.


Only a small subset of the potential cavity-nesting bee species used the trap-nests. Of the 34 cavity-nesting megachilids (including the kleptoparasitic Coelioxys) caught, only 10 species used the trap-nests, and of the 17 hylaeine bees, only four species used the trap-nests (Table 6). However, the value of the trap-nests was in being able to confirm males and females belonging to the same species namely, no males of Megachile (Eutricharaea) chrysopyga, Megachile (Mitchellapis) fabricator, and Hylaeus (Euprosopis) violaceus were collected in the field, but they emerged from bee tubes. Not only did the composition of trap-nesting species represent only a fraction of the diversity of cavity-nest species, but also the relative abundances did not mirror those caught in the field (Table 6).

Taxon Species No. of tubes No. of bees emerged Proportion of tubes Proportion of bees emerged No. of cavity-nesting bees collected during surveys Proportion of cavity-nesting bees collected during surveys
Hylaeinae Hylaeus (Euprosopis) violaceaus 15 68 0.093 0.133 3 0.004
Hylaeus (Gnathoprosopis) amiculus 1 1 0.006 0.002 7 0.009
Hylaeus (Gnathoprosopis) euxanthus 1 1 0.006 0.002 14 0.018
Meroglossa rubricata 4 8 0.025 0.016 19 0.024
Megachilidae Megachile (Eutricharaeae) obtusa 3 14 0.019 0.028 27 0.035
Megachile (Mitchellapis) fabricator 39 145 0.24 0.285 3 0.004
Megachile apicata 1 1 0.006 0.002 10 0.013
Megachile aurifrons 6 37 0.037 0.070 25 0.032
Megachile erythropyga 85 227 0.525 0.446 6 0.008
Megachile fultoni 1 1 0.006 0.002 24 0.031
Megachile “houstoni” M306/F367 † † Undescribed species, lodged in the WA Museum as M306/F367.
1 1 0.006 0.002 151 0.195
Megachile ignita 3 3 0.019 0.006 20 0.026
Megachile (Hackeriapis) tosticauda 2 2 0.012 0.004 6 0.008
Totals 162 509
  • Number of tubes occupied, the number of bees to emerge, proportion of all tubes occupied by a given species, proportion of all cavity-nesting bees are presented. To compare with survey results, number of a given species collected during the bee surveys and the proportion of all cavity-nesting bees collected during surveys (i.e., No. of sp. collected/No. of all cavity-nesting bees collected) are provided.
  • † Undescribed species, lodged in the WA Museum as M306/F367.

Mobile gardens

The mobile gardens were unsuccessful, despite the plants having a high density of blooms. Throughout the four months (56 sampling days), only S. aemula was visited, and on only five days at three sites. It should be noted that S. aemula was the only plant that flowered throughout the survey season the other three were restricted to the first month (only D. revoluta had some flowers still present in December). A total of 15 bees visited the mobile garden plants, but only one of these was native (L. (Chilalictus) castor, female)—the remainder were honeybees.

Comparison of different passive sampling methods for honeybees and native bees and the influence of habitat type

There was a significant difference in catch rates of native bee individuals by different methods (P < 0.001 Appendix S2: Table S8). Significantly more individuals were caught in blue vane traps than all other methods (P < 0.001) no other comparisons were significantly different (P > 0.05). There was no significant interaction between method and habitat (P = 0.115 Appendix S2: Table S8), although vane traps caught more bees in bushland than residential areas, where the other methods were comparable between habitats, but the sample size was too small for any valid conclusions (Fig. 2a).

Honeybee catch rates differed significantly by method (P < 0.001 Appendix S2: Table S6). Pairwise comparisons between both colored vane traps and all pan traps were highly significant (P < 0.001). Blue vanes also caught significantly higher numbers of honeybees than yellow vanes (P = 0.001). Comparisons between the pan traps were nonsignificant. There was also a significant method × habitat interaction (P < 0.001 Appendix S2: Table S8), where vane traps, which caught more bees overall, had higher catch rates in bushland remnants than residential habitats, whereas for the other methods, these caught no honeybees in most cases except for a few outliers, in both habitat types (Fig. 2b).

Assessing each method regarding whether there were differences in abundance of native bees and honeybees, it was found that the relative differences in abundance of honeybees vs. native bees differed between methods (Appendix S2: Table S9). Abundances of native bees and honeybees were similar for blue vane traps (mean native bees 8.26 ± 1.45 vs. mean honeybees 9.14 ± 1.27, P = 0.171), whereas there was a trend for honeybees to be recorded at higher abundances based on observational counts (mean native bees 94.3 ± 11.0 vs. mean honeybees 360.3 ± 97.1, P = 0.077 Appendix S2: Table S7). Both types of yellow pan traps caught significantly more native bees than honeybees (UV-fluorescent pan traps, mean native bees 0.392 ± 0.116 vs. mean honeybees 0 ± 0, P < 0.001 and large yellow, mean native bees 0.303 ± 0.119 vs. mean honeybees 0.024 ± 0.024, P = 0.001), but the trend was reversed for yellow vanes, which caught sixfold more honeybees than native bees (mean native bees 0.722 ± 0.172 vs. mean honeybees 9.14 ± 2.17, P < 0.001 Appendix S2: Table S9).

Basic Household Electrical Parts & Materials

1. Electric Meter

First in the list of common electrical parts you see everyday is the Electric meter. It is used by the national electricity grid to measure the units of electrical energy used in your household circuits. Yeah, that’s how they find the amount you need to pay for your electricity bill per month.

Kilowatt hour (kWh) is an energy unit.

Disc & Digital Electric Meters

Suppose you have a 1000W electrical appliance in your house and you have to use this appliance for one hour everyday. Then the electrical energy consumed is one kilowatt-hour per day. Electric Meter calculate this consumed electric energy through the circular disc fixed in it.

When you use electricity, this circular disc starts to rotate which records the number of electrical energy units used by you. If you look closer inside the meter, you can see there are digits moving at the same time when the circular disc rotates.

Electricity grid company uses that meter readings to create your monthly electricity bill every 30 days or so.

1 kWh = Amount of Watt x Number of hours used / 1000
1 Unit = 1kWh

2. Fuse

A fuse is an electrical part which you can’t see as it’s always inside a plug or an electrical device such as TV.

Basically fuses are used to protect electrical appliances, parts and electronic components from potential damage due to a high current – Ampere – flowing in the circuit.

This electrical part is a small length thin wire created using lead and tin alloy. These days fuse wire is commonly seen in a glass tube for easy use. There are different fuse wires with the ability to conduct certain maximum currents such as 3A, 5A, 13A and 15A.

Yes, that’s for the domestic electrical circuits, fuses for the commercial systems can go as high as 300,000A. When designing the circuit diagram the circuit designers use various symbols. Do you know which symbol represents a fuse?

It’s this symbol ⏛ where you strike a small rectangle box that represent the electrical part protecting your electrical devices – Fuse!

Curious on how exactly a simple wire do the protection duty without the muscles?

When electrical current flows through the circuit exceeding the rated ampere value of the fuse, the thin wire melts down (fuses) thanks to heating effect of electric current and in return makes the closed-circuit an open-circuit. As you already guessed, open-circuits never flow electrical current, hence the current flow is cut down suddenly while protecting the appliance and other electrical parts & components.

In other words, fuse is kind of a superhero which saves the day by sacrificing itself for the greater good.

This is why when the fuse goes down, you need to replace same value and same size of fuse. This is also a safety rule. Want to know more electrical safety rules?

When a fuse goes down, it’s gone forever. Since replacing fuses seem annoying, a new electrical part was created to avoid such complications.

This component is a miniature circuit breaker and it looks like a switch consisting various ampere values. Circuit breakers function similar to fuses. In the event of an exceeding current flow than the rated ampere value, the switch opens and stops the current, instead of melting anything or dying forever. The circuit can be connected again by closing the switch.

3. Distribution Box

Distribution Box Includes These Electrical Parts

Distribution box is another easy to notice electrical part in your home. It consists 3 more electrical parts, namely,

  • Main Switch (MCCB – Moulded Case Circuit Breaker)
  • Trip Switch (RCCB – Residual Current Circuit Breaker)
  • Circuit Breakers (CBs )

As the name implies, Distribution Box simply distributes the electric supply to sections of the house. These sections contain light circuits [Light Switches + Light Bulbs], fan circuits [Fan Regulator + Fan] and plug socket circuits.

In each of these circuits the Live Wire is connected to a circuit breaker which will be explained in a moment.

4. Main Switch (MCCB)

You know every house or commercial building has a distribution box which is where the Main Switch is located. It’s the first electrical part receiving the electricity from the electric meter inside your house. Therefore the Main Switch is the responsible part to take down the electricity throughout the house as required.

Often useful while upgrading house wiring and when thundering & lightning to disconnect the supply.

Single & Three-phase Main Switches

There are 2 wires inside the cable coming from the electric meter namely Live Wire and Neutral Wire. These 2 wires are then connected to the Main Switch. While the main switch is OFF the electric supply is stopped by disconnecting the two wires.

Remember, current flows only when the circuit is closed, hence the current flows specifically when the Main Switch is ON. That’s why you need to OFF the Main Switch to disconnect the power. Quite the other way around than the usual “switch on”. Right?

5. Trip Switch (RCCB)

Different Trip Switch Brands

Remember the fuse I explained earlier? Just like a fuse, protecting people and electrical appliances is the primary goal of the Trip Switch, an electric switch designed to interrupt a circuit suddenly & automatically.

However, it’s not a fuse, but a type of circuit breaker. This electrical part’s common name is Trip Switch while the technical term is RCCB – Residual Current Circuit Breaker. Trip Switch is there to help you multiple times compared to a fuse.

Electric current coming from the Main Switch connects to the Trip Switch via Live & Neutral Wires.

If there is a fault in any of the circuits in the house this switch opens (Trip) automatically and disconnects the power supply. For example, when someone gets electrocuted or when your house become a target of a lightning attack. Since the Trip Switch is so useful, it comes with a Test Button letting you check if it works as expected.

Working Principle of RCCB

How It Works – Trip Switch!

Always Primary coil and Secondary coil will sense the load current (IL and IN). When the circuit is OK the IL=IN, then trip coil will not get any current (IL-IN=0A) to energize the trip coil.

When the circuit Not OK the IL>IN, it means the trip coil will get some amount of current (IL-IN=3A). If IL-IN exceeding the RCCB tripping current, Trip coil energized and RCCB immediately trip.

It can happen due to a fault in the circuit Or when earth leakage current exceeds the value of tripping current of the RCCB.

6. Wall Switches

No wonder you have switched the switches thousands of times. Wall Switches are among the top consumed electrical parts list in any place that uses electricity.

Single, Two & Three Gang Wall Switches

Switches are used in light circuits and plug socket circuits to connect or disconnect the circuit according to the will of the individual.

There are different types of wall switches such as Push Button, Press Button, Toggle and Rocker while the latter is the universal light switch used on most houses these days. Then there are single, double, triple, quadruple as well as quintuple wall switches.

Electricians can attach multiple lights to a single switch as long as the current rating of the switch is not exceeded, for example all outdoor lights can be attached to a single switch letting you light up them at once easily.

7. Plug Sockets

Plug sockets are used to get electric supply for appliances like computers, electrical heaters, televisions, refrigerators and whatever electrical device you’ve been using.

Plug Sockets With Various Types of Sockets

Do you know that Plug Base is another name used to refer Plug Sockets? if you didn’t, now you know!

There are plug sockets to get 5A, 13A or 15A current. Similar to wall switches, there are different types of Plug Sockets based on pin type such as two-pin plugs and three-pin plugs where the 3rd pin is for Earth Wire. To get these connections, electricians use two core wires and three core wires.

Plug Sockets come with a switch for extra protection, so you don’t get electrocuted or harm your appliances while plugging. For safety, you need to OFF the switch before plugging any plugs.

8. Electrical Wires & Cables

Electrical wires are used to transport electric current, be that from electric meter to distribution box to power outlets (Plug sockets), all things get the supply through various electrical wires.

There are 3 types of electrical wires,

Each of the above wires contain different color codes depending on the country and in here Sri Lanka we have following wire color codes.

Wires with Red or Brown colors are used for live connections, so those are the Live Wires. Then the wires with Blue or Black colors are used for neutral connections, so they are the Neutral Wires. If you see a Green or Yellow-Green wire, remember they are used for earth connections, which means those are the Earth Wires.

Household circuits are designed by using various types of wires as explained above. Electrical cable is formed when all these 3 wires or at least the crucial 2 [Live & Neutral] wires are insulated with rubber or plastic cover. Here are more important details about electrical wires.

Wire Code Area of cross section of the wire (mm 2 ) Rated Maximum Current (A) Colors Use Cases
1/1.13 1.0mm 2 11A Red Or Black – Lamp Circuits
– 5A Plug Base Circuits
7/0.50 1.5mm 2 15A Red Or Black – 15A Plug Base Circuits
7/0.85 4mm 2 24A Red Or Black – Power cable from Electric Pole → Electric Meter → Distribution Box
7/1.04 6mm 2 31A Red Or Black

9. Two Way Switches

Two way switches are the last electrical part explained in this article. It’s a bit different than the normal wall switches in terms of how it operates.

These switches are used to operate a light from two different places. Normal wall switches only has 2 connections, while Two Way switches got 3 connections.

Couple of ways Two Way switches are used,

  • When you need to ON and OFF a light bulb in a staircase from top as well as bottom.
  • To ON and OFF a light bulb outside your door, when you go out at night.

For example, in the 2nd instance, you ON the switch while you inside the house and then you lock the door once outside. Now you want to OFF the switch, how do you do that? Talk to Barry Allen to get the powers of going through matter? Nope!

You setup a Two Way switch outside the house and you OFF it there.

What are the different parts for?

  1. Labrum - a cover which may be loosely referred to as the upper lip.
  2. Mandibles - hard, powerful cutting jaws.
  3. Maxillae - 'pincers' which are less powerful than the mandibles. They are used to steady and manipulate the food. They have a five segmented palp which is sensory and often concerned with taste.
  4. Labium - the lower cover, often referred to as the lower lip. It actually represents the fused pair of ancestral second maxillae. They have a three segmented palp which is also sensory.
  5. Hypopharynx - a tongue-like structure in the floor of the mouth. The salivary glands discharge saliva through it.

This system remains little changed in all insects which chew their food, both larvae and adults. Where specialised food sources have been exploited, the mouthparts are modified, sometimes very considerably, so that the food may be obtained satisfactorily. Insect mouth parts show many cases of parallel evolution, the same end being independently achieved along similar, but not identical lines. Many insects take in liquid food. This is facilitated by the development of a sucking' arrangement from the mouthparts.

Cooperative Extension Publications

This bulletin was developed by Constance S. Stubbs, research assistant professor, and Nancy Coverstone, Extension educator, the University of Maine.

For information about UMaine Extension programs and resources, visit
Find more of our publications and books at

Table of Contents

This fact sheet provides information on the native bees in Maine and their habitat requirements. It suggests ways to manage our yards for bees, so that the bees will survive, thrive and reproduce. Food plants, nest sites and appropriate nest materials are critical for enhancing bee habitats.

What Is a Bee?

Bees are insects. Although bees and predaceous hunting wasps evolved from common ancestors, bees do not feed caterpillars, aphids or spiders to their young, as predaceous hunting wasps do. Most bees visit flowers to get pollen and/or nectar, which they use to feed themselves, their offspring and, at times, one another. Pollen is rich in protein, and nectar is rich in sugar, a carbohydrate.

Some bees native to Maine are bright metallic green, others are deep shades of blue, some are red and yellow, and many are deep brown or black. Most bees look furry because they have a dense coat of specialized branched, often feathery, hairs. These hairs help the bee collect pollen. All bees, even those that look like wasps, have some branched hairs. Many bees have also evolved specialized structures for carrying pollen, such as the pollen baskets on the hind legs of honey and bumble bees.

Wasps and flower flies may be mistaken for bees. They often have typical honey or bumble bee coloration—yellow or orange with brown or black in colorful striped patterns. However, flower flies only have two wings, whereas bees and wasps have four. Wasps lack the branched hairs.

Bees Are “Keystone Organisms”

Bees are “keystone organisms” in most terrestrial ecosystems. Bees are essential for maintaining the integrity, productivity and sustainability of many types of ecosystems: the forest understory, pastures, fields, meadows, roadsides, many agricultural crops, fruit orchards, and backyard vegetable and flower gardens. Without bees, many flowering plants would eventually become extinct. Without the work of bees, many fruit- and seed-eating birds and some mammals, including people, would have a less varied and less healthy diet.

As bees forage for food, they pollinate many flowering plants at the same time. While feeding at a flower, a bee may deposit pollen on the flower’s stigma, the receptive part of the plant’s female reproductive organ. Pollination occurs when the pollen deposited is from the same plant species. For some plant species, pollen can come from the same plant. For others, it must come from a different plant of the same species. The compatible pollen will germinate and fertilize the flower so the plant produces fruit and seeds, from which other plants may grow.

Some plant species have adapted to being pollinated by one or more “agents,” including bats, flies, butterflies and birds (e.g. ruby-throated hummingbirds), as well as wind and water. Overall, however, bees do much of the pollinating in most terrestrial ecosystems worldwide.

Bees are part of the food chain, too. They are a source of protein for some birds, insects and spiders. Skunks, raccoons, bears and some birds also eat bee larvae. For example, a woodpecker foraging on a snag may be feeding on mason or leafcutting bee larvae that are in the dead wood.

Finding the Bees in Your Yard

The most likely place to find bees is in the flowers of native plants, when the day is sunny, relatively calm, and the temperature is above 70°F. To be active, fly, and feed, bees need to be warm. A few species are active below 60°, but most prefer temperatures above 72°. Wind makes flying more difficult because it requires more energy.

Although some species may be active by late February if temperatures are unusually warm, the vernal bee species (those present in the spring) generally become active by mid-April. You may observe them on early blooming flowers, such as willow catkins and dandelions. Some native bee species continue their activities into the autumn until the last asters, dandelions and autumn dandelions die. The greatest diversity and abundance of native bees is in midsummer, unless there is a lack of suitable flowers, perhaps because of drought, heavy rains, or how the landscape is managed.

Other places to find native bees are where they nest. Look at the soil along bare banks with a sunny southern exposure. Look in bramble canes, beetle borings in snags, and in abandoned birdhouses. If you do search for bee nests, remember to be cautious for yourself and respectful of them!

Solitary and Social Bees

Most bee species are solitary in terms of interactions with their own kind. There is no worker caste: each female lays eggs and provisions her own nest. A nest may be one cell, or a group of cells, depending on circumstances and opportunity. A cell is the space where an egg is laid and the larval bee develops into an adult. For some solitary species, individuals do not nest near each other. Other solitary species, however, nest close by or next to bees of their own species. Some actually share tunnels, each female having her nest off the same tunnel. When solitary bees do nest near each other, that species is called gregarious. Collections of individual nests are called aggregations.

In contrast, social bees have castes, groups of adults with different functions, so that there is division of labor. Generally, only the queen lays eggs. She is dependent upon the workers, usually sterile females, for her food and for building the nest. The males help to continue the species, adding genetic variability. Social bees live in colonies. Honey bees live in the largest colonies. Bumble bees live in much smaller ones.

Major Families of Bees in Maine

There are more than 270 species of native bees in Maine. Here we provide a brief overview of the major genera in the six bee families found in Maine and mention a few species that you are likely to encounter.

Plasterers, including the yellow-faced bees (family Colletidae)

Colletids (0.3–0.6 inches in length) are called “plasterer, polyester or cellophane bees” because the females line their brood cells with a cellophane or polyester type substance. In Maine, there are two major genera, Colletes and Hylaeus.

Colletes species are very hairy. Most are black with white pile on their head and thorax (the middle region of the body that bears the wings and legs). They have conspicuous white stripes on their abdomen. They nest in soil burrows. Occasionally, many bees of these species nest in the same area, forming dense aggregations of burrows in the spring.

Hylaeus, the yellow-faced plasterers, are much smaller than Colletes. They are relatively hairless and look more like wasps. Most are black with yellow or white markings on their faces. The yellow-faced plasterers nest in twigs, plant stems and wooden bee nesting houses.

Sweat bees and other halictids (family Halictidae)

Commonly called “sweat bees” because of their attraction to sweat, the Halictidae are generally small, slender bees (0.1–0.5 inches in length). Some species are metallic green, but most are black or brown. They nest in the soil and rotten wood. Some species in this family are solitary nesters, while others are not. Halictids are often found feeding at composite flowers, with a center of tiny true flowers surrounded by rays, such as black-eyed Susans during midsummer and asters during late summer and early fall.

Miner and sand bees (family Andrenidae)

Most Andrena are soil nesters, hence the common names of “miner bees” and “sand bees.” If conditions are ideal, some species nest in large aggregations. They are moderately robust (0.3–0.6 inches in length). Most are black a few species are shades of gray-brown, sometimes with abdominal stripes. The miner bees are among the first bees to emerge in the spring.

Mellitids (family Mellitidae)

Mellitids are uncommon, solitary—but gregarious—soil-dwelling bees. They superficially look like Andrena. Two genera are found in Maine: Melitta and Macropis. The Macropis are unusual because the adults feed on nectar but do not collect nectar for their offspring. Instead, the females collect floral oils from loosestrife (e.g. fringed loosestrife, Lysmachia ciliata), which they mix with pollen from the same plant.

Leafcutters and masons (family Megachilidae)

The females use leaves, mud and sometimes pebbles in their nest construction. Most are about the same size as those in the family Andrenidae (0.3–0.6 inches in length). In Maine, the two most common genera are Osmia and Megachile. Some Osmia are shades of metallic blue, or blue-black. The Megachile are shades of gray-brown, often with abdominal stripes.

Most species in this family are moderately hairy, especially the abdomens of the females. The hairs are an adaptation for collecting pollen to take back to the nest. With a thick layer of pollen coating their bellies, it is easy to identify these females.

Some species of Megachilidae nest in the ground. In Maine, however, most species in this family use old borings in trees made by other insects for their nests. These bees readily accept wooden bee nesting houses. (See our bulletin #2420 for information on the biology and conservation of Osmia, which are important pollinators of Maine’s lowbush blueberries.)

Bumble bees (family Apidae)

Bumble bees are social bees and belong to the same family as honey bees, because the females store collected pollen in specialized corbiculae, “pollen baskets,” on their hind legs. Like honey bees, bumble bees have three castes: queens are the largest (0.5–1 inches long), workers, which are also female but do not lay eggs, are smaller (0.2–0.8 inches long) and males are mid-sized (0.3–0.9 inches long). Bumble bee tongue length varies among species. Bumble bees are very furry and have a robust physique.

Sixteen species of bumble bees are found in Maine. Most North American species are black with yellow markings. Bombus ternarius, a common species found throughout the United States and much of Canada, is yellow and orange, and thus aptly known as the orange-belted bumble bee.

Bumble bees visit flowers even in cold, rainy weather and are superior pollinators. Some species live below ground, others above ground, and some have no preference. Nest sites include abandoned rodent nests in undisturbed meadows and pastures, abandoned bird nests, cavities in rock walls, foundations, and other sheltered areas. The impatient bumble bee, Bombus impatiens, often nests in foundations and even in insulation in walls and rugs stored in sheds. In Maine, bumble bee colonies rarely have more than 40 individuals.

Bee Life Cycles

Like many other insects, a bee’s life develops through a series of four stages: the egg, the larva (the active feeding stage), the pupa (the inactive stage), and the adult. The larval stage in most insects, including bees, is wingless and looks very different from the adult stage. The duration of each stage varies for each species. Here are life cycle descriptions for three native bee species.

Early vernal miner bee, Andrena dunningi

This may be the first bee you see in the spring. It is very partial to sunny, south-facing, bare, sandy-clay soil slopes. It is solitary, but gregarious the nests tend to be in aggregations. Starting in late March in warm years, adult males emerge from the soil before the females, leaving visible holes in the soil. Usually, the males alternate between feeding on flower nectar and waiting for females to emerge so they can mate.

Another sign of miner bees are little mounds of soil with a hole in the center, which indicate where the females are constructing their nests below ground. For about a month, female miner bees forage on nectar and pollen from such flowers as maple, dandelion and crocus. They lay eggs in carefully constructed cells lined with a special waterproof material. In each completed cell, a tiny creamy-white egg sits atop a mass of pollen moistened with a bit of nectar, which the hatching larval bee will feed on. After the larva undergoes several molts, it develops into the pupal stage and finally into the adult stage.

All these development processes happen within each natal cell below ground. The new generation of adult miner bees will remain dormant until the following spring, awaiting warm temperatures and a burst of early spring flowers.

Blue orchard bee, Osmia lignaria

Main body parts of blue orchard bee, female. Image reprinted with permission from the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN),, from G. Frehner, in Jordi Bosch and William P. Kemp, How to Manage the Blue Orchard Bee as an Orchard Pollinator (Beltsville, MD: Sustainable Agriculture Network).

Blue orchard bees overwinter as dormant adults. About the time apple trees begin blooming, the first males appear. The blue orchard bee is a superior pollinator of apples and its relatives in the genus Malus.

Mating between males and females usually occurs at the nest site. Males wait by the nest for females to emerge. After mating, the females begin new nest construction. Nest sites may be in previously used insect borings in wood and bramble canes, underneath clapboards or in nail holes. The blue orchard bee is a frequent resident in bee nesting houses.

Each female constructs her own nest. It begins when she starts a cell with a mud partition at one end. Then she forages for pollen and nectar, often from apple blossoms, and makes a pollen-nectar loaf upon which she deposits an egg. She then seals the cell with another mud partition. Within a bramble cane she may make as many as 20 cells, each with an egg. Within a few days, the eggs hatch and the larvae feed until it is time to pupate. By late October, the pupae become adults but remain inactive, each in its cell, until spring when they emerge to resume the cycle of life.

Orange-belted bumble bee, Bombus ternarius

Orange-belted bumble bee, male. Photo by Stephanie Allard.

The orange-belted bumble bee queen emerges from hibernation in early spring. She must satisfy two immediate needs. She must nourish herself on flower nectar and pollen, and she must find a good place to raise a family. Queens spend hour upon hour cruising just above the ground looking for a suitable nest site underground, often settling in an abandoned mouse burrow.

Once the queen has a nest site and starts secreting sufficient wax, she makes a waxen cell in the center of the nesting area. She lays some eggs in this cell. She also makes a waxen “honey pot” for storing nectar. Usually throughout April and into mid-May each orange-belted queen forages for nectar and pollen for her own survival and to provision the nest for her young. Her first eggs take three to four days to hatch into worm-like larvae that feed voraciously on stored nectar and pollen. After they become pupae, they develop adult tissue for about 14 days and then emerge as beautiful silvery “callow” worker bumble bees. In two to three days, these workers attain their true adult coloration and their wings harden enough for flight.

When enough workers are actively provisioning the nest with nectar and pollen, the queen devotes her time to laying and incubating her eggs and defending the nest against intruders. From the mid- through late summer, the queen lays special unfertilized eggs, which develop into males. Shortly thereafter she switches to producing new queens. Each new queen, after mating, must find a good spot to spend the winter underground. Throughout the winter each queen is dormant in her hibernation cell, waiting for spring to start the cycle again. The workers, males and old mother queen of each colony die by midautumn.

The Pollination Crisis

Conservation biologists worldwide are concerned about declines in bee abundance and species diversity. In the United States, honey bees, bumble bees, and approximately 4000 species of solitary bees pollinate agricultural crops and plants of garden, lawn, meadow and forest. Conversion of the landscape to residential and commercial uses eliminates natural bee habitats. Often, the developed landscape is not managed to create or enhance bee life. In addition, many insecticides and herbicides are either toxic to bees or destroy their habitats by killing flowers that provide bees with nectar and pollen. All these factors are contributing to the loss of bee populations and diversity.

Honey bee populations have changed, too. People manage honey bees for crop pollination and honey production because they are social and live in large colonies. However, honey bees are not native to North America. European settlers brought them here in the 17th century. They are one of a few bee species that convert nectar into honey in sufficient amounts for human consumption. Since 1990, managed honey bee populations have decreased by 25 percent due to the ravages of parasitic mites that were unintentionally introduced. Other causes, such as pesticide misuse, further reduce their numbers.

Horticulturalists, conservationists, ecologists and home gardeners are becoming more aware that native bees are important for pollination. However, native bees, with few exceptions, are unmanaged, and little is known about their populations. There are two noteworthy exceptions. In Hawaii, many native bee species are imminently threatened with extinction. And in the wild blueberry fields of Washington County, Maine, six species of native bees were last collected in the mid-1960s. Managing native bees as we manage honey bees, in large hives, is not possible. However, we can enhance the habitats of native bees, providing nest sites and forage plants, to help them to survive, thrive, reproduce and pollinate! Such habitat management benefits honey bees as well.

Cost Versus Benefit: Sting Versus Pollination

Not all bees sting. No male bees sting. That’s a true statement for all the estimated 30,000 species of bees worldwide. Many species are small bees and at worst their sting feels like a pinprick. Sometimes, stings are attributed to bees when in fact wasps, such as yellow jackets, are the culprits.

However, the queen and worker honey and bumble bees can give a nasty sting. For a very few of us, their sting can be lethal. For most people, their sting and perhaps accompanying swelling, while painful, is temporary. Consider a world without bees. For most of us, the cost of being stung is a small price to pay for the essential pollination services that bees provide.

Bees sting as a defense against intruders. Within a species, individuals vary in aggressiveness when provoked. Using common sense will prevent most stings. Look into the flower before you sniff its fragrance. If you go barefoot, look where you step. If you see numerous bees going into a crack in the foundation of your shed, simply avoid getting in the flight path around the entrance to their “home.” Before mowing, check for bee activity on a sunny warm day, when most bees and wasps are active. Then, mow on a cloudy, cool day to avoid killing bees.

Make Your Yard “Native Bee” Friendly

Perhaps you too have noticed fewer bees in your garden or orchard and are looking for ways to create or improve habitat for them.

  • Choose nonchemical solutions to insect problems. Most insecticides are highly toxic to bees. For information on nonchemical insect pest management, see our Habitats fact sheet, Beneficial Insects and Spiders in Your Maine Backyard (bulletin #7150).
  • Curb the “‘erb.” Avoid using herbicides. The long-term negative health effects of herbicides on humans are not fully known. Tolerate, in fact, appreciate the beauty and usefulness of flowering “weeds” such as dandelion. Their presence means more variety of nectar and pollen sources for native bees and others, such as butterflies. They help fill gaps in the succession of planted flowers, and add to the variety of flower shapes, colors and scents.
  • Provide a source of pesticide-free water and mud. A birdbath, dripping faucet or mud puddle works nicely for bees and attracts butterflies and beneficial insects. To assure a clean source of water, change the water in your birdbath frequently, at least once a day. This will also prevent mosquitoes breeding there. Mud is an important nesting material for several bee species.
  • Establish set-asides and hedgerows. Bees need undisturbed areas for nesting. Hedgerows or a bit of clutter, such as brush piles of sumac or raspberry canes, can make a safe nest area for them. Set-asides may be areas that are not mowed and are left undisturbed. They could be bare ground, preferably with a sunny, southern exposure ideal for certain species’ nesting requirements. Lack of appropriate nest sites is a limiting factor on population.
  • Provide conservation bee nesting houses.
  • Minimize lawn area, or mow less often. Mowing grass often kills bees. To avoid this, mow when they are not so active, when it’s cool, overcast and windy, or late in the evening. Allowing the lawn to revert to a more natural state, by not mowing or reducing the area that is mowed, will result in a profusion of bee forage and more potential nest sites over time. Areas that are not mowed become set-asides and may be colonized by many flowering plants.
  • Maximize flower space and plant species diversity. Have gardens, fruit-bearing trees and shrubs, thickets and hedgerows of flowering shrubs, and set-aside areas in your yard. This diversity will provide flower shape variety, a greater quantity of pollen and nectar, and a succession of flowering times.
  • Provide a succession of blooming plants throughout the growing season. Food plants are an essential habitat requirement for bees and must be available early, middle and late season. Some native bees are actively forging adults by March and others are active until early November. Bumble bees are a good example of the importance of succession blooming. From early spring until late fall they require nectar and pollen the number of queens a colony produces depends on the number of workers that are produced in midsummer, which in turn depends on the availability of high quality nectar and pollen.
  • Provide a mix of flower shapes to accommodate different bee tongue lengths. Small bees, such as the halictids, have short tongues other species have long tongues. Asters and other composites nicely suit short-tongue bees, but tubular flowers with long corollas are only suitable for species with long tongues. Flower size is not an indication of the quality or quantity of nectar.
  • Include lots of purple, blue, and yellow flowers in your bee sanctuary. These are the most attractive colors to bees. Planting the colors in masses will get their attention!
  • Emphasize native perennial plants. Perennials generally are richer nectar and pollen sources and, because they bloom year after year, they provide a more dependable food source than annuals, which must be replanted each year. Our native bees have evolved with our native plants, to mutual benefit.
  • Avoid horticultural plants, such as marigolds and roses, bred as “doubles.” These plants have been bred for more showy petals in place of anthers. Thus, they have little or no pollen. Also, the many petals often make the nectar physically inaccessible to bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and others.
  • Select sunny locations, sheltered from the wind, for your flower plantings. Smaller bees, especially, use the sun to help warm their bodies. Also, plants receiving at least six hours of sunlight have more nectar than those receiving less.
  • Remember that early spring and late autumn are very challenging times for bees because of coolness, highly variable temperatures and a lack of flowers. In the spring, tolerate those dandelions. In the late fall, let the bees and migrating monarch butterflies have the few remaining flowers. Leaving fallen fruit to rot, such as windfall pears, may help too, but be aware that you will also be attracting hungry wasps.
  • Practice peaceful coexistence. Bees sometimes choose to nest in inconvenient places. Rather than exterminating them, think of it as an opportunity to see and learn about them up close.

What We Do for Bees Benefits Other Wildlife Species

The flowering herbaceous plants, shrubs and trees used by bees also provide nectar for butterflies, moths, beneficial insects, and ruby-throated hummingbirds. They produce seeds and fruits that are eaten by many species of birds and mammals. Hedgerows, thickets, set-asides, trees, and snags are habitat components that provide cover and nest sites for many wildlife species. Bees, birds, butterflies, dragonflies, and all other wildlife benefit from the absence of insecticides and herbicides in their habitats.

Plants for Native Bees in Maine

Maine has a rich native bee fauna. Many bee species are excellent pollinators of crops such as apple, strawberry, blueberry, tomato, cucumber, squash and pumpkin. However, the blooming crop alone often cannot sustain our native bees. Each species has its own life cycle, timed differently from others, and has differing food, cover and nesting requirements. For these reasons, a wide diversity of plant species and a continuous succession of blooms throughout the season are necessary. Native bees need abundant nectar (for carbohydrate energy) and pollen (a major source of protein) for survival. Be sure to provide both nectar and pollen plants in each bloom period.

Below is a list of some plants known to be attractive to native bees in Maine. 1 It does not include all the plants useful to native bees. Your own observations of other flowers bees visit will allow you to add to this list. Many of the flowers we enjoy around our homes are pollinated by native bees, and so contribute to the nectar and pollen resources available. Many “weeds” and flowering plants that colonize set-aside areas are also excellent food sources.

Note: No plants listed here are invasive exotic species many are native to Maine. Most plants in this list prefer full sun.

Plant Key: A (Annual) B (Bulb) Bi (Biennial) P (Perennial) S (Shrub) T (Tree)

Early season (April–May):
Common Name Scientific Name Nectar, Pollen or Both Type of Plant
Red Maple Acer rubrum Both T
Shadbush Amelanchier sp. Both T, S
Crocus Crocus sp. Pollen B
Heath Erica sp. Both P
Snowdrop Galanthus sp. Both B
Apple Malus sp. Both T
Daffodil Narcissus sp. Pollen B
Pieris Pieris sp. Both S
Plum and Cherry Prunus sp. Both T
Red Oak Quercus rubra Pollen T
Willow Salix sp. Both T
Dandelion Taraxacum officinale Both P
Tulip Tulipa sp. Pollen B
Blueberry Vaccinium sp. Both S
Johnny Jump-Up Viola tricolor Nectar P
Mid-season (June–mid-August)
Common Name Scientific Name Nectar, Pollen or Both Type of Plant
Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Nectar A*
Chives Allium schoenoprasum Nectar P
Borage Borago officinalis Both A
Purple Coneflower Echinacea purpurea Both P
St. John’s Wort Hypericum perforatum Both P
Sheep Laurel, Lambkill Kalmia angustifolia Pollen S
Bee Balm Monarda didyma Nectar P
Evening Primrose Oenothera biennis Both Bi
Oregano Origanum vulgare Both P
Self-Heal Prunella vulgaris Both P
Rose Rosa sp. Pollen S
Lamb’s Ear Stachys byzantina Nectar P
Dandelion Taraxacum officinale Both P
Thyme (Creeping) Thymus sp. Both P
Red Clover Trifolium pratense Nectar P
* In much of Maine
Late season (mid-August-October)
Common Name Scientific Name Nectar, Pollen or Both Type of Plant
Aster Aster sp. Both P
Autumn Dandelion Leontodon sp. Both A
Goldenrod Solidago sp. Both P
Meadowsweet Spiraea alba Nectar S
Dandelion Taraxacum officinale Both P

Conservation Bee Nesting Houses 2

Construction, placement, and maintenance

Placing wooden bee nesting houses in your yard, garden, and around woodland edges is an effective means of increasing populations of cavity-nesting bees, especially mason and leafcutting bees. Several designs are available for purchase, so just follow the placement and maintenance recommendations offered in this fact sheet.

If you have woodworking skills, make your own nesting houses. The design described in this fact sheet is an adaptation of the conservation bee nesting houses used in research, modified for the tools that homeowners would have on hand.

Materials needed

  • An 8-foot 2࡬ makes 15 (6 1/4-inch) houses, which is more than enough houses for a quarter-acre lot. Bee houses can be made from soft or hard woods. Spruce 2x6s work well. Do not use pressure-treated wood.
  • Metal 3/4-inch perforated strapping (also called plumber’s strapping or plumber’s tape).
  • 1-inch or 1 1/4-inch screws for attaching the perforated strapping to the back of the bee houses.
  • 3/4-inch screws if houses are attached to wood stakes, or 1 to 1 1/4-inch screws if houses are to be attached to the side of a shed or barn or to fence posts.
  • 5-foot wood stakes. Two relatively inexpensive stakes can be made from a 10-foot piece of ceiling strapping.

Tools needed

  • Power drill
  • Drill bits with 9/64-inch, 5/16-inch, and 7/16-inch diameters
  • Screw bit or screwdriver
  • Circular saw or hand saw
  • A sledge hammer if bee houses will be mounted on wooden stakes

Bee nesting house construction

  1. Saw the 2x6s into 6 1/4-inch lengths.
  2. Drill 7 holes, in a zigzag pattern, into one end of each block. This will be the “front” of the nest house. If you are using a hand-held power drill, only 7 holes should be drilled in a 2 x 6 house. The zigzag pattern of the 7-hole configuration is shown in the template in Figure 4. You can trace it onto stiff cardboard or on a quarter-inch sheet of plywood to make a sturdy template. In each house, use at least two of the three recommended bit diameters, 9/64-inch, 5/16-inch, and 7/16-inch. All three drill bit diameters may be used in one house. If you have a drill press, you can drill 14 holes in a house. See Figure 1 with the two parallel, vertical rows of holes. Larger nest houses, with more than 16 tunnels, are not recommended because they are more noticeable to parasites and predators. If you use drill bits that are longer than standard, be sure the holes are no deeper than 4 3/4 inches. Each hole will become a nesting tunnel. The space between nesting tunnels is important so bees have a place to land before walking into the tunnel. The different diameter tunnels will be used by different species of bees. The 9/64-inch diameter tunnels attract small bees. The 5/16-inch diameter tunnels attract medium-sized bees. The 7/16-inch diameter tunnels attract larger bees, such as the blue orchard bee. Be careful not to drill completely through the house because adult female bees will not nest in tunnels that are open at both ends. Research in Maine has not included the 9/64-inch diameter tunnels. You may or may not have the small bee species that use this size tunnel present in your landscape. The only way you will know is to include this size tunnels in your bee nest houses, and watch to see if they are used.
  3. Cut the perforated strapping into 3-inch lengths. Screw the piece of perforated strapping to the back of the wooden house, about 1 inch from the top, using 1 or 1 1/4-inch screws. See Figure 2. Be careful not to screw through a tunnel! The two inches of tape that extends beyond the top is screwed to a stake (use a 3/4-inch screw), fence post or shed (use a 1 or 1 1/4-inch screw).

Note: Use only thoroughly seasoned wood to avoid “nest dry out.” As green wood dries, moisture will be removed from any nests in the tunnels, killing the bee eggs and larvae. If you start with green wood, be sure to season the cut pieces by leaving them outdoors in the sun for three days before drilling the holes. If you buy a 2࡬ from the lumber store, it will be ready to use when you get it home

  • Mid-March to late April is the best time to set the houses if you want to attract Osmia, because they emerge and start searching for nest sites in May. You may set the houses as late as mid-September and get some nesting in warm autumns.
  • East-southeast is the preferred exposure for the front of the house and the tunnel entrances. Hang the houses at a slight downward angle to prevent rain from flooding the tunnels.
  • The houses should be 3 to 5 1/2 feet above the ground, so snow will not cover the blocks in winter. This avoids prolonged wetness and possible growth of fungi. (See Figure 3.) Stakes are recommended. Research shows more bee nests are made in bee houses that are on stakes. Also, other insects and spiders make fewer nests in wooden bee nesting houses on stakes. If you use stakes, the bottom of the bee house should be 3 feet above the ground. The houses can also be placed on fence posts or the sides of outbuildings, with the bottom of the bee houses at least 3 feet above the ground.
  • Native bees do not fly great distances, so the houses need to be relatively close to suitable leaf or soil material for their nests and within 50 yards of their nectar and pollen flowers.
  • Nesting houses on stakes can be placed around the yard or garden, from 3 to 10 feet apart. If you are using them in a large-scale agricultural or orchard setting, they should face into the field or orchard and be spaced 10 to 25 feet apart.

Checking the bee nesting houses for bee nests

Some bee species are pollinating and building nests at the onset of blueberry and apple bloom in late May. You may see female bees flying back and forth laden with pollen, entering a tunnel where they deposit the pollen into each cell. After the completion of each cell, you may see them entering the tunnel with leaf or mud material to seal it off from siblings. The tunnels with completed nests are capped with masticated plant material or mud. Freshly made nest caps of leafcutting bees begin as bright green, but darken with age so that by autumn nest caps are grayish brown or almost brown-black. Various species of bees may be building nests in the bee houses throughout the summer and into September. Each capped tunnel may contain as many as 16 offspring. Under ideal conditions, a female is capable of producing approximately 30 to 36 bees.

Maintenance and replacement

Wooden nesting houses, like tractors and tiller are equipment and they need periodic maintenance to give best results. Softwood houses generally last four to five years, hardwood ones much longer. The houses need to be checked at least twice a year—in the fall and in the early spring. If any have fallen off the trees or stakes, simply reattach them.

The houses become part of the habitat, and other kinds of wildlife will use them to forage for food or as nest sites. Woodpeckers and some other birds may prey on nesting bees and damage the nesting houses. Always remove any damaged houses and replace them with new ones.

Spiders, some ants, and beneficial wasps will use the wooden bee nesting houses for shelter and nest sites. Wasp nests are also capped with mud. Usually it is not until the third year of use that competition for tunnels becomes noticeable. When you notice that more than half of the tunnels are capped with materials other than masticated leaf or mud, it is time to add new nesting houses to those already in the habitat.

1 List derived from research at the Penobscot County Master Gardeners’ pollinator garden, the University of Maine’s Rogers Farm, Stillwater, Maine and from Stubbs, et al., Alternate Forage Plants for Native (Wild) Bees Associated with Lowbush Blueberry, Vaccinium spp. in Maine, Technical bulletin #148 (Orono: Maine Agricultural and Forest Experiment Station, 1992).

2 We know that populations of certain species of native bees increase when conservation bee nesting houses are provided in areas where their other habitat resources are present. For four years. populations of native bees were monitored in fields that were provided with conservation bee nesting houses and in fields without bee houses. Fields that had bee houses showed an increase in populations as compared to the fields without bee houses. (Research conducted by Frank Drummond and Constance S. Stubbs in the Biological Sciences Department of the University of Maine.)

Special Thanks to Our Contributors:

  • Bill Coverstone, woodworking instructor, Portland Arts and Technology High School, for adapting the bee nesting house design for construction by homeowners
  • Jim Philp, Extension forestry specialist—Wood Technology, for his work on the section Conservation Bee Nesting Houses
  • Lois Berg Stack, Extension ornamental horticulture specialist, for her work on the plant list in this fact sheet
  • Sincere appreciation to our reviewers for their time, suggestions and encouragement:
  • Stephen L. Buchmann, Ph.D., president, The Bee Works, Tucson, Arizona
  • Pamela Coffin, master gardener volunteer in Androscoggin/Sagadahoc Counties, Auburn
  • Frank Drummond, professor of insect ecology/entomology, University of Maine, Orono
  • Howard Ginsberg, ecologist, United States Geological Survey, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
  • Lois Berg Stack, Extension ornamental horticulture specialist, University of Maine, Orono

Information in this publication is provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any problems associated with the use of products or services mentioned. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied .

Call 800.287.0274 (in Maine), or 207.581.3188, for information on publications and program offerings from University of Maine Cooperative Extension, or visit

The University of Maine is an EEO/AA employer, and does not discriminate on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, transgender status, gender expression, national origin, citizenship status, age, disability, genetic information or veteran’s status in employment, education, and all other programs and activities. The following person has been designated to handle inquiries regarding non-discrimination policies: Sarah E. Harebo, Director of Equal Opportunity, 101 North Stevens Hall, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469-5754, 207.581.1226, TTY 711 (Maine Relay System).

17 Popular Snapper Varieties and Identification Pointers

Schoolmaster Snapper (Lutjanus apodus):

  • Olive-grayish color
  • Reddish coloration near head
  • Elongated triangular snout
  • Yellowish vertical stripes on the body
  • Yellow-colored fins
  • Blue-interrupted stripe below the eye
  • Absence of lateral black spot

Red Snapper (Lutjanus campechanus):

  • Vivid red body color
  • Silver-white under belly
  • Long triangular snout
  • Pointed anal fin
  • Absence of lateral spot
  • Dark red eye

Yellowtail Snapper (Ocyurus chrysurus):

  • Bluish olive color and yellow spots on top
  • Pink and yellow longitudinal stripes
  • Prominent yellow stripe across the side from snout to tail
  • Bright yellow and forked tail
  • Absence of lateral spot

Mutton Snapper (Lutjanus analis):

  • Olive green color on top
  • Red-colored lower fins
  • Contoured blue line below the eye
  • Pointed anal fin
  • Tiny lateral dark spot below the dorsal fin
  • V-shaped tooth arrangement on the roof of mouth

Cubera Snapper (Lutjanus cyanopterus):

  • Body is dark brown with reddish hue
  • Broad triangular tooth arrangement on the roof of mouth
  • Slight blue tinge on the fins
  • Presence of protruding canine teeth on both jaws

Vermilion Snapper (Rhomboplites aurorubens):

  • Reddish body with whitish underbelly
  • Short, irregular, and diagonal blue lines on top
  • Absence of canine teeth
  • Appears as if looking upward
  • Absence of lateral dark spot

Twinspot Snapper (Lutjanus bohar):

  • Yellow-colored eye
  • Bluish green color on top
  • Gray-white-colored underbelly
  • Dark-colored fins
  • Presence of white spots in lateral linear formations on the body
  • Triangular snout
  • Absence of lateral dark spot
  • Appears as if frowning

Dog Snapper (Lutjanus jocu):

  • Brown body color with bronze accents
  • Sharp canine teeth, with one pair enlarged and protruding
  • Yellowish-orange tinge on the fins
  • Pale triangle along with a blue interrupted line below the eye
  • Absence of dark spot laterally and below the dorsal fin

Mangrove Snapper (Lutjanus griseus):

  • Also known as Gray Snapper
  • Dark brown gray body color
  • Red and orange spots in the form of vertical stripes
  • Two canine teeth on the upper jaw
  • Reddish tinge on the fins
  • Absence of lateral and dorsal dark spot

Emperor Red Snapper (Lutjanus sebae):

  • Dark red eye
  • Alternating thick stripes of white and dark red throughout body
  • Spiny fins
  • Slightly forked tail fin
  • Triangular snout
  • Absence of lateral and dorsal dark spot

Queen Snapper (Etelis oculatus):

  • Bright red color on top
  • Elongated body
  • Silver sides and underbelly
  • Notch on dorsal fin
  • Big and prominent eyes
  • Deep fork in the tail fin
  • Absence of lateral and dorsal spot

Silk Snapper (Lutjanus vivanus):

  • Body has shades of pink, orange, and red
  • Sides are silver and exhibit presence of yellow lines
  • Yellow pectoral fins
  • Pointed anal fin
  • Edge of tail fin is black
  • Absence of lateral and dorsal dark spot

Lane Snapper (Lutjanus synagris):

  • Pinkish red body color
  • Alternating longitudinal dashed lines of pink and yellow
  • Blackish edge of the tail fin
  • Large, faded black spot present laterally

Bluestripe Snapper (Lutjanus kasmira):

  • Bright yellow body color
  • 4-5 bright blue, lateral longitudinal stripes
  • White-colored lower body and underbelly
  • Lateral lower part shows pale gray lines
  • Yellow fins
  • Absence of lateral and dorsal dark spot

Papuan Black Snapper (Lutjanus goldiei):

  • Greenish body color
  • Broad snout
  • Black fins
  • Dark spots and patches along the body
  • Presence of prominent scales

Blackfin Snapper (Lutjanus buccanella):

  • Red body color and yellow fins
  • Dark crescent shape at base of pectoral fins (blackfin)
  • Rounded fins
  • Absence of lateral and dorsal dark spot

Mahogany Snapper (Lutjanus mahogoni):

  • Grayish-green body color with a red tinge
  • Lateral diffuse dark spot
  • Eye and tail fin are bright red
  • pines along the fins are prominent

Each snapper is unique in its appearance. By observing the key characteristics of a variety, identification of the type of snapper can be possible.

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