4 Interesting Native Bee Species Facts To Keep in Mind

4 Interesting Native Bee Species Facts To Keep in Mind

4 Interesting Native Bee Species Facts To Keep in Mind

4 Interesting Native Bee Species Facts To Keep in Mind 4 interesting Native Bee species facts to keep in mind

Keystone species hold ecosystems together. They provide balance. Bees supply a good example. They're mutualists. When they eat nectar and pollen, they also transfer pollen between plants. 

Wild and farmed bees help control vegetation quality and growth through pollination. When bees thrive, our crops do, too. 

When we hear calls to save the bees, we must differentiate the bees we're talking about. Honeybees, Apis mellifera, are doing better than their native counterparts. They're important. Their contributions to the medicinal sector and food supply are well documented. But they're not a native species. The honeybees setting up shop in America were brought here by European settlers

In 2023, the U.S. honeybee population stabilized after a year when nearly half of the colonies died. Considering honeybees pollinate 80 percent of all flowering plants, including more than 130 types of fruits and vegetables, keeping tabs on their well-being is essential.

But what about North America's other 4,000 bee species? They're not doing so hot. 

We've combed through research journals and articles to understand the importance of native species and honeybees, compare the two, and better understand how we can help all bee species in North America thrive. A bumblebee, one of 4,000 native bee species, on a flower.Important Bee Statics and Facts to Know in 2024

  • Honeybee colonies have increased by more than 80 percent since the 1960s per worldwide numbers, but many native bees are at risk of extinction.

  • Twenty-eight percent of bumblebees in Canada, the United States, and Mexico are in an IUCN Threatened Category.

  • According to the USGS, there are 4,000 native bee species.

Can honeybees and native species coexist? 

Honeybees lead luxurious lives. A single honeybee hive can consume 20 to 130 pounds of pollen and 120 to 900 pounds of nectar annually (Goulson 2023 and references therein). 

While ongoing research looks to answer this question more thoroughly, experts recognize the adverse effect of honeybees on native species in given environments. 

Depending on the environment, the time of year, and the amount of honeybee hives in the area, native species may find resources lacking. Only 9 percent of bee species are social

Cane and Tepedino (2016) found that a 40-hive apiary consumes roughly the equivalent of four million wild bees. The challenge for researchers and farmers is to provide adequate land and resources for honeybees while minimally impacting the native populations.

Native bee species play a vital role in our ecosystems. As researchers continue to learn more about native species, homeowners can lend our pollinators a hand by creating habitats that are ground- and stem-nesting bee-friendly.

There are instances of honeybees displacing native species. However, there are other cases where the two cohabitate quite well. Research is ongoing on this question and varies based on the ecosystem, time of year, and other external factors. 

Researchers approach this issue cautiously and lean more heavily on factors they know impact native species' well-being directly — namely, that habitat loss is a leading threat to bee diversity. Pesticide use, emerging diseases, and climate change also have the potential to impact bee populations. Native bees excel due to environmental adaptation

Native bee species are effective pollinators

Both honeybees and native species play a pivotal role in maintaining a healthy crop cycle. In some cases, native species proved to be more efficient pollinators than their non-native counterparts. 

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), "About 20%-45% of native bees are pollen specialists, meaning that they use only pollen from one species (or genus) of plants. If that plant is removed, the bee goes away. If bees are removed, the plant doesn't reproduce."

Native bee species specialize in pollinating such plants as gourds, squashes, pumpkins, and sunflowers. They are the primary pollinator for most crops, and if not, they supplement the work of honeybees. Crops like cotton and peppers that don't require pollination still yield more when bees swing by. 

Native bee species pollinate native plants well in varying conditions because they are well-adapted to their given environments. Plus, many plants require buzz pollination, when a bee species produces a vibration to release pollen. 

Several essential food crops are buzz-pollinated, including eggplant, tomato, blueberry, and kiwi. Add eggplant, sweet potatoes, and peppers to that list as well. Honeybees cannot produce the vibrations needed to participate in buzz pollination, which makes native species that much more critical. 

Most native bees lead solitary livesA bee flies toward a flower

More than 90 percent of bees lead solitary lives. The female bees construct homes from dead trees, abandoned rodents or beetle burrows, and rock crevices. A few species get creative in their homemaking. They might call an empty snail shell home. 

Each bee nest contains a separate cell where eggs are laid. The number of cells varies by species. Most nests have five or more cells, but a few may have one cell. Female wood-nesting bees make cells in a single line that fills the tunnel. Females of ground-nesting species may dig complex, branching tunnels. 

The solitary male bee roams with no home. Without a hive and a lack of a communal structure, the male might snooze on a flower until the next day arrives. 

The lifespan of many species is a year or less

After constructing their nests, female native species mate with males and fill single cells with food composed of pollen and nectar, which they leave in the chamber with an egg on top. Their offspring will hatch and begin feeding until they, too, pupate in their burrows. Larger species overwinter as larvae, while others spend the winter months as adults or pupae. The timer is on. 

Most species live for about a year.

As they emerge from their overwintering sites in the spring, new adults set out to pollinate crops and wildflowers while the next generation starts the cycle all over again. 
Quick Summary

Native Bee Species Facts
1. Honeybee vs. Native Bees
Honeybees are non-native; native bee species are at risk of extinction.
2. Importance of Native Bees
Native bees are efficient pollinators; some are pollen specialists.
3. Habitat and Coexistence with Honeybees
Habitat loss, pesticides, and diseases threaten native bee populations. Coexistence varies by ecosystem.
4. Solitary Nature and Lifespan
Over 90% of native bees lead solitary lives; lifespan is typically about a year.

Without their pollination of wildflowers, seeds' dispersal, and food pollination, biodiversity would suffer, and agriculture would be in significant trouble.Transform your lawn with GreenPal's trusted pros

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