Male bees have just one job in life: to make sure their genes are passed on to the next generation, or in other words, to find and mate with as many females as possible. While adult females spend most of their lives building nests, gathering pollen for their young, and laying eggs, the males spend their lives drinking nectar (sugar water) and cruising for ladies.
So when it gets too dark to fly in the evening, where do these males spend the night? Once a female has mated, she no longer has any interest in males. She certainly won’t let him stay in her cozy nest underground, on which she has worked so hard. In addition, males generally emerge earlier in the season than females so that they won’t miss out on any exciting mating opportunities.
Left out in the cold and exposed to predators, male bees make do with a variety of bachelor pads.
Some males opt to spend the night alone in a flower, usually one that closes for the evening so that they will be protected. The photo at the top of this post is one that I snapped early one morning at Eatwell Farms in Dixon, CA of a male squash bee (Peponapis pruinosa) getting ready to start his day after spending the night in a closed squash flower. Here’s another photo of the same individual that was taken earlier (as in before I disturbed him and made him turn around):
Male bees of the same species tend to have the same sleeping strategy. For example, male squash bees all sleep in squash flowers. Hungry females are bound to visit squash flowers, so by spending more time there, a male is more likely to encounter an unmated female. After all, what better place to look for mates than at the nectar bar?
Other males prefer safety in numbers. These guys sleep together in groups, called sleeping aggregations. You might see them early in the morning, grasping onto stems or leaves with either jaws or legs. Here are some photos of a sleeping aggregation of Long Horn bees (Melissodes) males that I took at Free Spirit Farm in Winters, CA:
I took these photos just as the bees were warming up for the day. They certainly didn’t appreciate my intrusion and took off as soon as their flight muscles warmed up. Good thing that male bees don’t sting…
The last type of bachelor pad, of which I have no photos, consist of crevices and old abandoned nests.
Tune in next time to learn how to tell whether a bee is male or female…