Native Bees

No, not honey bees. The honey bee you may be thinking of is actually an invasive species from Europe. Native bees is a term used to refer generally to bees native to an area. Specifically, we are interested in the conservation of bees native to southern California. Some of the most common solitary bees in the area include: carpenter, mason, and leafcutter bees. Some of these bees can also be called solitary bees because they do not live in hives, but rather, small colonies.

Pictured: female leafcutter bee (Megachile spp.)

Fun Facts


Pictured: male sweat bee (Agapostemon texanus)

Not in California?

Here are some bee identification guides for other states!


Pictured: squash bee (Peponapis pruinosa)

Differences from honey bees

Unlike honey bees, solitary bees:

  • may make their nests in the ground or small crevices, not in a hive, and as a result, are less aggressive​​

  • do not have a single queen; because they do not live as a hive, each female is her own queen and lays her own eggs

  • do not produce honey; they do not have an entire hive to care for, so large stores of food are not needed

  • are more effective pollinators than the European honey bee because they do not need to gather pollen for an entire hive

  • do not have to be transported from farm to farm as commercially rented honey bee hives are (often from out of state!)


Pictured: digger bee (Anthropora edwardsii)

Where can I learn more?

Article: Native bees are a rich natural resource in urban California gardens

Bee Hotels: Do they actually work? A guide to building one in your backyard.

Related article: ‘Bee Hotels’ as Tools for Native Pollinator Conservation: A Premature Verdict? Part of a study of 600 bee hotels in Toronto, Canada.

10 bees and 10 plants bees love by the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden

Common bee groups of California by the UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab

Interview with UC Berkeley professor Gordon Frankie, an expert on native bees.

A guide for identifying native bumblebees of the Western United States.

A guide for enhancing nest sites for native bee crop pollinators.

Xerxes society for invertebrate conservation publications library. Search for all kinds of readings and guides on bees and other pollinators.

Pollinator Partnership. An organization whose mission is to promote the health of pollinators, critical to food and ecosystems, through conservation, education, and research. Find out about their programs and other educational resources!

Pictured: female leafcutter bee (Megachile spp.)