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I have a Mason bee house with small tubes that is currently buzzing with life but I am completely clueless about what's in there. Some plugs seem made of clay, some of crushed leaves, some of resin, some look like just a little film...

I figure it's possible to learn about what is living in there (approximately) going by the type of plug, and maybe the size of the tube, but I don't know where to start. I'm in Eastern Canada if this makes a difference.

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Not an expert on bees, but there 39 known genera of solitary bees in eastern Canada1. That reference contains a key, so at very least you can start to identify your tenants when they emerge next year.

The clay plugs are due to one of the genera of "mason bees", but that doesn't really appear to narrow things down much.

Your area does have "leafcutter bees" in the genus Megachile that use cut leaves to line and separate the chambers of their nests1,2, so that probably explains the holes containing crushed leaves.

There are also "resin bees", but the only species in your area (Paranthidium jugatorium) I've read about that fits that description is supposed to nest in the ground.1

Finally, bees in the genus Hylaeus and Colletes are known to use a membrane rather than a plug.2

1: Packer, L., Genaro, J. A., & Sheffield, C. S. (2007). The bee genera of eastern Canada. Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification, 3(3), 1-32.

2: Michener, C. D. (2000). The bees of the world (Vol. 1). JHU press.


ETA: A guides to wasps in your region from the Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification may also be of help.

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  • $\begingroup$ That's a good start, thank you! I believe I may have wasps in there as well so it's a bit broader than just bees. $\endgroup$
    – curious
    Jul 31 '19 at 1:43
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    $\begingroup$ You're welcome! I'll add links for a couple of identification guides for wasps in your region. $\endgroup$
    – tyersome
    Aug 3 '19 at 19:57

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