Most of North America’s bee and wasp species are solitary, as opposed to colonial. That means that instead of being part of a cooperative group of workers supporting a queen, single female bees and wasps act on their own. Without support from others, each individual female (in most cases) has to create a nest, lay eggs, gather food to put with those eggs, and defend her nest. It’s a lot.
Male solitary bees and wasps, on the other hand, have a pretty cushy life by comparison. Their sole job is to hang out near flowers and mate with females as they come to gather nectar (wasps and bees) or pollen (bees). The downside of that lifestyle, however, is that males don’t have a nest to retire to each evening. Instead, they have to just find a roosting place and spend all night exposed to the weather and potential predation.
Because I like to go out early in the morning and look for insects (and other things) I often come across male bees and wasps on their overnight roosts. Often, they’re cool and covered in dew, which makes them pretty easy targets for my photography. I assume that makes them easy targets for predators and other threats too.
This has been a particularly good summer for encountering bees and wasps in the morning, so I thought I’d share some of the photos I’ve gotten over the last couple months. The ones I see are often on or near flowers or seed heads, or in other places fairly high up in the vegetation. That seems like it would make them more prone to being found by birds or other predators, but it also means the sun will reach them early in the morning and warm them up. That’s a tricky tradeoff.
If you come across any male bees or wasps while you’re out on an early morning walk, it’s a great opportunity to get a close look at these beautiful creatures. As you look at them, though, maybe wish them luck. After all, if you’ve found them and gotten close enough to admire them, others may do the same, and might have hungrier intentions…
(Thanks to the fantastic experts at bugguide.net for their helpful identifications of some of these bees and wasps. If any of them are misidentified, it those are the ones I tried on my own…)