Log in

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.

MG  12/2021


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.

Incredible photography.

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

Free Publications

The Bees of the Willamette Valley - A Comprehensive Guide to Genera 

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

Identification of Bees in Southwest Idaho — A Guide for Beginners

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


Numerous interesting posts about wild and native bees by Rusty Burlew

Here's a sample

The bees in your backyard YouTube Channel

“Bees! Diversity, Evolution, Conservation”

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.

Book recommendations

  • The Bees in Your Backyard by Joseph S. Wilson, Olivia J. Messinger Carril (In TVBA library).  A highly informative book with exceptional photos,  excellent print quality,  fun writing style., and practical information.  Good for both beginners and experienced bee enthusiasts.
  • Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees by Thor Hanson.  A fun and interesting collection of bee stories, encounters with people who study and work with them, accounts of different types of bees, the role and plight of the honey bee, and concerns about the future.
  • The Solitary Bees by Bryan N. Danforth, Robert L. Minckley, John L. Neff, Frances Fawcet.  A deep dive into the biology and natural histories of solitary bees.  This could be (and probably is) a college text book.  An excellent book  that puts it all together, including evolutionary aspects.
  • 100 Plants to Feed the Bees by Eric Lee- M├Ąder, Jarrod Fowler, Jillian Vento, and Jennifer Hopwood (Xerces Society ) (In TVBA library)

  • Native Bees: Bees indigenous to a geographic area.
  • Wild Bees: Comprised of native bees but may also include non-natives that have naturalized to a geographic area.
  • Some "wild bees" populations are supplemented by human management such as the mason bees, leafcutter bees, and Alkali bees.
Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software