Utah is home to about 900 native bee species, and most of them are solitary. They do not live in a colony, like honey bees and bumble bees, but instead each female creates her own nest. Most solitary bees nest in the ground, but many nest in pre-existing cavities, such as hollow reeds or holes left behind by wood boring beetles. Some species are active in the spring, while others aren't active until summer. In several instances, solitary bees are better pollinators than honey bees, and a few species, such as alfalfa leafcutting bees, alkali bees, and blue orchard bees, are managed as commercial pollinators.
The blue orchard bee is an important pollinator of fruit and nut trees, and can be managed in backyard or large commercial settings. "How to Manage the Blue Orchard Bee as an Orchard Pollinator," by Jordi Bosch and William Kemp discusses using blue orchard bees to pollinate fruit trees. Also, a list of resources for acquiring blue orchard bees and blue orchard bee nest materials will help in promoting this bee.
Information about commercially managed solitary bees can be found on the USDA-ARS Bee Biology and Systematics website.
Excellent resources exist if you would like to learn more about native bees.
- The Xerces Society is a great source of information about bee conservation.
- eXtension.org has a lot of useful information about native bees.
- Gardening for Native Bees in Utah and Beyond is a USU Extension publication for gardeners hoping to attract native pollinators.