Bee Bingo Creates a Buzz in Biologists’ Backyards

Bingo for the bees caused quite a buzz in the Service’s Idaho Fish and Wildlife Office this spring. The inaugural conservation game pitted staff against one another in an effort to attract and document a row of mason bees (Megachilidae; Osmia) in mason bee boxes posted in the competitors’ backyards.

Last year, biologist Bob Kibler built 20 mason bee boxes and offered them to his colleagues for their backyards. This year he reminded the office via email in late April that the bees were a buzz in the Boise area.

“I wanted to remind those of you that took a bee box home, that if you have not yet installed your bee boxes around your yard, you should do so soon.  … Mason bees are typically only active from early spring to early summer, so getting your bee boxes installed early in the season is important,” Kibler wrote.

The bees are solitary, and the pattern of nesting holes drilled into wood resembled a bingo card. The Boise office’s GIS specialist Nick Hardy challenged everyone to the inaugural IFWO Mason Bee Bingo Competition, which would be won by the first person to document that four holes in a row had been sealed shut.

“Shall we play Bee Bingo?” he wrote. “Fancy coffee to the first person with a line. Get your box installed!”

Time passed, some competitors boasted and others came close. But no one could claim victory. Capturing a picture of a Bee-ingo was proving elusive for the competitors.

Then on June 2, Hardy broke the news that there was an inaugural champion of the IFWO Mason Bee Bingo Competition.

 “Steve Duke wins the inaugural IFWO Mason Bee Bingo Competition!” he wrote.

 The following picture was evidence of Duke’s victory:

More information about mason bees:

  • According to Wikipedia and Crown Bees:
    • There are approximately 130 species of mason bees in North America, most of which are native.
    • Most mason bees are active from spring through late summer
    • Mason bees are solitary; every female is fertile and makes her own nest, and there are no worker bees for these species
    • Solitary bees produce neither honey nor beeswax
    • Most mason bees live in holes and are readily attracted to nesting holes; reeds, paper tubes, or nesting trays
    • Best of all: mason bees are relatively easy to raise, gentle and are more efficient pollinators than nonnative bees
  • Learn why mason bees are important pollinators and make sense for backyards in this video
  • Learn more about mason bees and other native bee species in Bee Basics