Wild and Native Bees


The honey bee is an amazing creature and a wonder to behold.  In addition to the cherished honey, wax and other products their colonies produce, they are also our prime insect crop pollinator.  No other bee is as adaptable for on-demand pollination as the honey bee.

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.  And while the honey bee plays a huge role in crop pollination, there are numerous examples of native and wild bees doing major pollination services as well.  

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.  Of course, of our native flora has relied on indigenous bees for millions of years.

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.  Honey bees are an established aspect of managed landscapes, but there are some areas where perhaps they don't belong, such as natural and wild areas where they can create pressure on natives for floral resources.

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 as they make their living by raising their offspring in the nests of other bees.

The study of bees is fascinating and complex. Listed below are people and organizations making a difference in our understanding of these important creatures.

MG 6/2020



The Quest To Find Every Kind Of Bee In Oregon

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 out.

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


 

Native bee discoveries in New Mexico

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 ecolingual.com


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


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)
 
Notes:
  • 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.
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