Dawson's burrowing bee is a large solitary ground-nesting bee endemic to the arid zone of Western Australia. In this study, we use microsatellite markers to analyse the genotypes of offspring from individual nests to determine the number of effective mates for each female. From these data we have determined that females almost certainly mate only once which is consistent with male reproductive tactics that include protandry and intense male–male competition for access to virgin females. We also use the molecular data to show that the nesting female is the mother of all the offspring of her nest and that brood parasitism is unlikely in this species. The data indicate that females make daughters at the beginning of the season followed by large sons in the middle, and then small sons at the end. Females often place one brood cell directly above another. The distribution of sex and morph in these doublets follows a pattern with most containing a female on the bottom and a minor male on the top, followed by almost equal numbers of female on top of female and minor male on top of major male. This pattern is likely favoured by emergence patterns, with males emerging before females and minor males emerging before major males. We suggest that although minor males have low reproductive success, their production may nonetheless be beneficial in that minor males open up emergence tunnels for their larger and reproductively more valuable siblings. In addition, minor males may be a best of a bad job product arising from changes in the costs to nesting females of gathering brood provisions over the course of the flight season.