North America is home to 4,000 native bee species. Spoiler: Honeybees aren’t one. (They’re European.) More than 700 of these pollinators face extinction due to habitat loss from increased pesticides. One Hyde Park resident is trying to change that narrative. Justina Block launched Osmia Bee Company, a sustainable bee house retailer, in November to grow Cincinnati’s native bee population. “You can make a difference in your own backyard,” says Block, who’s been breeding bees as a hobby since 2013. Anyone can be the change, she says. Bonus: your garden will flourish, too.
How it works:
- Each house—crafted from cedar wood in Charm, Ohio—comes complete with nesting materials and instructions. Live mason and leafcutter bee cocoons come later.
- Female mason and leafcutter bees can determine the sex of their eggs before they lay. They lay female eggs toward the back and males near the front. One female can lay 18 to 20 bees during her six-week life cycle. Males typically live only eight to 10 days.
- When the temperature is right—50 degrees for mason bees and 70s for leafcutters—place your release box in your bee house and watch your bees hatch over the next 10 days. Good news: these gentle, solitary super-pollinators are kid- and pet-friendly! Males don’t sting, and females only do when threatened.
- Watch the bees work! The viewing window peeks inside five nesting tunnels, where a female bee lays eggs in individual cells she builds using mud (mason bees) or leaves (leafcutter bees).
Photographs by Aaron M. Conway