Resource Spotlight: Krombein’s Trap Nesting Wasps and Bees

Science is all about teamwork. As researchers we depend upon the discoveries of others to help us ask interesting questions and give us information to help answer inquiries.  We are all hoping that our own work can contribute meaningfully to the massive, ever-evolving knowledge base that’s been in progress for thousands of years. Without good data from others we’d have to painstakingly start from scratch every time. Thankfully we don’t have to, because excellent resources like Karl Krombein’s excellent 1967 book on trap nesting wasps and bees give us a solid foundation to build upon.

Krombein cover smallOver 12 years of research on nests from sites spanning the continental United States, this remarkable book is based on some 3500 nests surveyed. It contains data on hundreds of wasp, bee, mite, fly, and beetle species. Everything from life history to the nest architecture and larval food resources was recorded. Five new wasp species were discovered in Washington alone and two mite genera were described. Much of this information was unknown before Krombein’s study, but he also synthesized previously published literature for species in his impressive book. As if compiling these data weren’t enough, Krombein deposited thousands of voucher specimens to the US National Museum (Smithsonian Institution).

To get his information, he made trap nests similar to the bee blocks we gave to you (and hopefully some of your friends!). Holes of varying diameters were drilled into individual pieces of wood and monitored carefully. Then when the blocks showed signs of life, they were carefully pried open, exposing the tunnels. A layer of Saran wrap closed off the tunnel but permitted observation and photography. Thanks to Krombein’s thorough work and other resources like BugGuide, we have a much greater understanding of the not-so-secret life of bees and their associated insects.


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