Bees can be split into two main groups Social Bees (hive bees) and Solitary bees.
Solitary bees live by themselves and work independantly of each other, however if conditions are ideal they will nest next to each other rather like a block of flats.
As solitary bees do not live in hives but by themselves, where they live is called a nest. The largest group of solitary bees are those that live underground.
These ‘ground-dwelling’ bees live in holes which they dig in the ground. Bees like to receive sunlight from a North-East direction to keep their nests warm.
Ground-dwelling bee nests can be quite shallow or can go down 1.5 m and have side chambers where up to 20 eggs are laid. Some bees dig into the side of banks, others dig straight down.
Diagram of nests underground
Nest entrances in the side of a small bank of dirt
Hole sizes range from 3-4 mm for smaller bees to 10 mm in diameter for a big bee (larger than the honey bee). When a hole is active you will often see loose, freshly removed soil around it. Piles of dirt around ant holes are more granulated.
Spider holes have either a cap or you can see the web.
A nest entrance which goes straight down
As with the ground dwelling bees hollow dwellers like to have their nests in a North-east facing position. some like the direct sun some like a little bit of shade.
Megachile bees build their nests in holes found in trees, which are often made by borers. Megachile bees close their cells using resin from eucalypt trees. They often decorate the nest entrance with leaf bits, grass or bits of mud.
Here you can see borer holes in a fallen log; some are being used as bee nests, this log is about 30 cm thick.
Flower: Eremophila nivea, Bee: Megachile ‘resin bee’
Some bees use the human built structures around them and they readily go to specially built areas please see the "Building Nests" page.
This nest is freshly sealed. It’s on a building in an old screw hole.