All of us have seen wasp nests tucked into the eaves of houses or dangling from trees, and many of us have observed honeybees busily entering and leaving their hives.  But where do wild bees live?

New York’s wild bees do not build nests that house enormous colonies, the way wasps and honey bees do. (A wasp nest may contain thousands of wasps, and honey bee colonies can number more than 80,000 members.) Most of our wild bees are solitary -- that is, they build individual nests, which the bees provision by themselves with honey and pollen for their young.  Such wild bees do not form swarms and are generally not aggressive toward people.

Wild bees, like the unequal cellophane bee at center right, often nest in the ground.  Each cellophane bee digs its own nest and provisions it without help.  Cellophane bees, however, are “gregarious”.  They like the company of other cellophane bees and prefer to set up nests near one another -- they live like New Yorkers in tenement apartments, each with his own unit but not too far from neighbors.

Other bees tunnel individually into the dead stems of pithy plants, or they move into holes bored in rotting wood by birds, mammals or other insects. The mason bee shown below stationed itself in a woodpecker hole left in a tree stump near an orchard.

Some bees, like the beautiful emerald green Augochlora pura sweat bee shown above right, like to build nests underneath the bark of rotted logs.  During spring of 2016, a fallen tree beside a woodland trail looked alive with emerald-green flashes of light as Augochlora pura bees scurried in and out of tunnels under the tree’s bark.

Only a handful of our wild bees form colonies.  Most of these are bumble bees, whose queens hibernate over the winter and emerge in spring to form small colonies that usually consist of a few dozen members.  Bumble bee queens like to hide their nests in holes dug by other animals in decaying logs or in the ground.