Wild and Native Bees
Honey bees are amazing creatures and a wonder to behold. In addition to producing cherished honey, wax and other products, they are also our prime insect crop pollinators. No other bee is as adaptable for on-demand pollination as the honey bee and much of our agricultural system depends on them.
But the honey bee is not alone and is actually just one in over 20,000 described bee species in the world, over 4,000 in North America, and over 600 in Oregon. The honey bee is a non-native that first came to the Americas in the early 1600’s with European settlers.
While the honey bee plays a huge role in crop pollination, native and wild bees are also significant contributors. The Alkali bee and a leafcutter bee are primary pollinators of alfalfa seed in the Pacific Northwest, bumble bees play a significant role in blueberry and cranberry pollination, and numerous native bees (including masons) are important supplementary pollinators of fruit and seed vegetable crops.
There is currently much debate on whether honey bees negatively impact native bee populations, but unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question as much depends on location, seasonality and other factors. It is probably safe to say that in some circumstances honey bees are detrimental to native populations, and in others the effects are minimal. Much of this is determined by the degree of landscape disturbance by humans. Many papers have been written on this subject and some articles are provided below for further reading.
The vast majority of bees in the world live solitary lives and make no honey (~77%). Others (~10%) are social or cooperative and may create small seasonal stores of nectar and pollen, but do not horde large food stores like honey bees. Interestingly, the remaining (~13%) bee species are so-called cuckoo bees because they have their offspring raised in the nests of other bees.
There is growing interest to better appreciate our “forgotten pollinators”, to recognize their importance in the natural world, to comprehend their contributions, and do more to safeguard their future. Listed below are people and organizations making a difference in this regard.
The Quest To Find Every Kind Of Bee In Oregon
The Oregon Bee Atlas in action
Oregon is home to a dazzling array of native bees. But no one knows just how many species live here, or if their numbers are declining or holding steady. The people behind the ‘Bee Atlas’ project seek to find this out.
Deep Look: High def, slow-mo closeups of various bees
- This Bee Gets Punched by Flowers For Your Ice Cream
- This Vibrating Bumblebee Unlocks a Flower's Hidden Treasure
- Watch This Bee Build Her Bee-jeweled Nest
- Honey Bees Make Honey ... and Bread?
Why we collect bees.
My Garden of a Thousand Bees
A wildlife cameraman spends his time during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown filming the bees in his urban garden and discovers the many diverse species and personalities that exist in this insect family.
The Wild World of Bees Lecture Series
Online lecture series on the interesting world of native bees. Join the Oregon Bee Atlas for a discussion of some of the lesser-known features of these fascinating creatures.
Knowing Oregon's Bee's with August Jackson
August Jackson presents an exploration of the diversity of Oregon's bee species, their varied life histories, and examples of their relationships with our native flora.
Thanks to Oregon Wild
by August Jackson
A fantastic work with great photos and information along with an identification key.
A great way to start on the smaller subset of Oregon's bees before covering larger territories.
Free download at ecolingual.com
This document was prepared to help scientists and the public, both of whom may not be familiar with bee taxonomy, learn how to practically identify bees in sagebrush steppe and shrubland habitats in southwest Idaho. Much of this is also applicable to Oregon, especially the south eastern regions. Information is provided to identify bees to the level of family and genus.
Resources & Links
Online exhibit is based on the physical “Bees! Diversity, Evolution, Conservation” special exhibit on display at the Museum of the Earth. The physical exhibit was developed in conjunction with Bryan Danforth.
Papers regarding Honey Bee and Native Bee interactions