By: Brooke Mason
Save The Bees
Bees are a very important part of our ecosystem. Bees are endangered so we have to do everything we can to save them. Bees are essential to filter our air. They are vital to pollinate the food we need to survive and pollinate many of the trees and flower that provide habitats for wildlife.
Pollination is very important because many of our vegetables, fruits, and the crops that feed our livestock rely on it to be fertilized. Without pollination we could go hungry. Vegetables such as broccoli, asparagus and cucumber rely on the pollination of bees, as do apricots, strawberries, apples, tomatoes and almonds. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, approximately 80% of all flowering plants are specialized for pollination by animals, mostly insects. There are other methods of pollination like the wind, birds, bats and other insects. However, wild bees are among the most important pollinators because they are capable of pollinating on a much bigger scale.
What’s happening to the bees?
Bees are in decline on a global scale because they are faced with many threats. They are losing their habitats with the increase of building developments. That isn’t harming the bees a much as it is the trees. But without trees there is no place for some bees to live. Several species of bee’s nest in hollow trees. The use of pesticides is also causing the bee population to decline. When the pesticide is sprayed on the plants and the bees go to pollinate that plant, they ingest the pesticide, and it severely damages their central nervous system. Climate change also has an effect on bees. With the extreme weather and unusual changes in the weather, flowers are blooming earlier or later than expected. This can change the bee’s nesting behavior. There is also a big problem with parasites spreading diseases to bees. There are also other species of insects that are migrating to our area that eat bees, one of these insects is the Asian hornet.
What you can do to help
- Fill your garden with bee-friendly flowers
- Provide shelter for bees
- Stop using pesticides
- Plant a tree
- Create a bee bath
- Support local beekeepers
Identifying Different Types of Bees
There are many different types of bees and some types you may have never heard of before. We’ll start with the most common bees.
The honeybee is probably the most commonly known bee. Honeybees are known for their awesome pollination skills. They are also quite small compared to the bumblebee. Honeybees have this beautiful orange/yellow abdomen with the black stripes. They also have little yellow fuzzy hairs on their thorax. Honeybees do have a stinger but don’t sting unless it is to project themselves or their hive. The worker bees are female, they are the ones you see out and about pollinating flowers. Female honeybees are the ones that sting as well, male honeybees do not sting. Honeybees can also sting if they are simply stressed out. They could be missing a queen bee; they could be having problems with wasps and yellow jackets trying to get into their hive or many other reasons for stress. It’s best to just stay away from a hive and you most likely won’t get stung. If you ever need a hive removed be sure to call a beekeeper to remove the hive for you. Do not try and remove the hive yourself.
Bumblebees are larger than most bees. They have a black head and black and yellow stripes on their thorax and abdomen. Bumblebees have very fuzzy hair. They look very similar to carpenter bees but the biggest difference between the two types of bees is the bumblebee’s fuzzy black abdomen. Bumblebees tend to nest underground but can also nest above ground. This is probably why we step on bumblebees so often. Bumblebees are also protective of their nest so they will sting if they feel you are threatening them or their nest. Bumblebees are great pollinators because of their fuzzy hairs that hold extra pollen. Bumblebees can hold so much pollen that sometimes they are bogged down by the weight of it and will fly funny on their way back to their hive.
Carpenter bees are the largest native bees in the United States. They are bigger than bumblebees. Though it is hard to tell the size difference when you cannot compare the bee’s side-by-side. The biggest difference is the abdomen. Carpenter bees do not have long fuzzy hair like bumblebees. Their abdomens seem to appear smooth and kind of shiny in the light. Carpenter bees’ nest in wood and I’m sure you’ve experienced some living in your porch or somewhere else in a wooded structure besides a tree. Carpenter bees almost rarely sting. They aren’t super protective of their nests, but they will buzz in your face to warn you to leave. Carpenter bees are also good pollinators although they are a nuisance when they build a nest in your home. But how do you get rid of carpenter bees without killing them? Easy, during the fall cover up any holes that the bees have made nests in before with wood putty or wooded corks. They are more likely to go back to old nests in the spring when they come out. They will come back though. To keep them away just use citrus spray to spray on the wood. Citrus is highly repulsive to carpenter bees. You can make your own citrus spray by boiling citrus peels in water for a few hours and pour it into a squirt bottle. Spray the area every few days depending on the weather.
Mason bees are named for their habit to build nests out of mud and other masonry products. They are small, fast-flying bees which makes them excellent pollinators. A type of mason bee, the blue orchard bee, is named for its pollinating skills in orchards. Research has shown that 400 female blue orchard bees are as effective as 10,000 honeybees when pollinating almonds. Mason bees do not have pollen pockets on their legs like most bees. Instead, they carry the pollen in the hairs on the underside of their abdomen.
I don’t know about you, but this bee looks absolutely terrifying. Leafcutter bees build their nests similar to how mason bees build theirs. However, leafcutter bees use leaves to cover up their nest cavities. These bees are black with white hairs. They have large heads and huge jaws to help cut leaves. They also store their pollen under their abdomen like mason bees do. They are also fast flyers making them excellent pollinators.
Blueberry bees are great pollinators of blueberries, which is how they got their name. Blueberry bees pollinate southern rabbit eye blueberries specifically, which require buzz pollination. Buzz pollination is not a common behavior in other bees so that makes blueberry bees all the more special. They resemble small bumblebees because of their fuzzy hair. They fit perfectly inside bell-shaped blueberry flowers.
Squash bees are large bees like bumble bees but look more like honeybees. Before Europeans brought honeybees to the “new world” squash bees were the main pollinators of squashes and gourds that were planted by the Native Americans. In the early morning you can find male squash bees flying from squash flower to squash flower looking for a female to mate with. These bees are solitary and live in nests dug in the soil. Solitary bees live alone basically. They do not produce honey, do not have a queen and do not live in hives. Solitary bees are also non-aggressive because they are not protecting any honey or a queen.
Hairy-footed Flower Bee
Hairy-footed flower bees are very important pollinators of primrose flowers, dead-nettles, comfrey and lungwort. The females resemble bumblebees but are smaller. They are black and furry with orange hairs on their hind legs. The males are a rusted brown color and have cream-color hair on their faces. They also have long orange hairs on their feet and middle legs. They like to live in woodlands, parks, soft cliff faces and soil. They fly in a darting manner and are known to be solitary bees as well.
Ashy Mining Bees
Ashy Mining bees are black and grey which is where they get their name. The are also solitary bees and are most commonly seen in the spring. They are usually found in an open and sunny location near sandy soil types. Which probably explains why we don’t see them in our area. The females are the same size as honeybees and the males are smaller and have less easily recognizable markings. The female bees make their nests by burrowing underneath the ground. The often feed on buttercups, blackthorn, hawthorn, and fruit trees.
Furrow bees are also known as sweat bees. They’re attracted to human sweat and will walk around calmly on your arm. Although we really don’t want them to. If any bee has annoyed me it’s this bee. They are small and fairly docile in nature. They linger in the ground and build their nests in soil. Up close this bee resembles a wasp.