Desert Diggers

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Brood pot: a single wax-lined chamber filled with nectar and pollen. Unlike a honey bee comb that can have hundreds to thousands of brood cells.

Metamorphosis: dramatic change in body form... more

Prepupa: the inactive stage just before the pupa in the development of certain insects.

Pupa: resting stage during which tissues are reorganized from larval form to adult form. The pupa is the third body form in the life cycle of insects that undergo complete metamorphosis (like caterpillars).

What Do Females of Centris pallida Do to Reproduce?

a digging female digger bee

A digging female digger bee.

Digging females of Centris pallida tunnel down through sandy to gravelly soil for about a foot or so before finishing off the burrow with an inch-long vertical, terminal cell located roughly eight inches beneath the surface of the soil. In this cell, the female forms a brood pot lined with wax that she then fills with nectar and pollen.  On top of the sticky mass of food, she lays an egg, which hatches into a tiny grub that feasts on the provisions provided by its mother.

A brood pot.

A brood pot.

Once the food is gone and the grub’s development is complete, the baby bee turns itself into a pale grub-like prepupa, which rests quietly underground for 11 months or so.  Long after its mother prepared the cell for its offspring, the prepupa eventually metamorphoses into a pupa, which in turn soon becomes an adult bee. The fresh adult digs its way up to the surface and begins a very active life beginning in April or early May that runs its course in about a month or so.

stages of development

As the baby bee matures, it turns into a pale grub-like prepupa. The above images show the baby bee as a larva (1), a small prepupa (2), and a larger prepupa (3). The egg hatches into a larva that gets bigger as it eats until it has finished the food in the brood pot. At that point, it stops growing and changes into a prepupa. If the larva has only had a small amount of food to eat, it will form a small prepupa; if it has eaten tons, it will become a large prepupa. But prepupae do not eat anything. They wait until the next year when they change into pupae and then adults.

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Bibliographic details:

  • Article: Female Digger Bees
  • Author(s): John Alcock
  • Publisher: Arizona State University School of Life Sciences Ask A Biologist
  • Site name: ASU - Ask A Biologist
  • Date published: July 11, 2011
  • Date accessed: June 12, 2024
  • Link:

APA Style

John Alcock. (2011, July 11). Female Digger Bees. ASU - Ask A Biologist. Retrieved June 12, 2024 from

American Psychological Association. For more info, see

Chicago Manual of Style

John Alcock. "Female Digger Bees". ASU - Ask A Biologist. 11 July, 2011.

MLA 2017 Style

John Alcock. "Female Digger Bees". ASU - Ask A Biologist. 11 Jul 2011. ASU - Ask A Biologist, Web. 12 Jun 2024.

Modern Language Association, 7th Ed. For more info, see
Watch a female digger bee build her nest complete with slow motion instant replay. You can get the rest of the story and images on this page. Click the icon in the lower right of the video to view full screen.

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