Above: California High Desert Honey Bee Pollinating a Yellow Beavertail Cactus Flower (Jessie Eastland)
Did you know? Only female bees are able to sting, since the stinging apparatus evolved from a mechanism used to lay eggs.When people think about bees, they often think about getting stung or eating honey. So the species that come to mind are bumblebees and honey bees. Yet there are close to 20,000 different species of bees worldwide that come in various shapes, colours, and sizes. In Canada alone, there are over 700 species of bees.
The honey bee has been studied for centuries. It can pollinate a wide variety of plants and humans have introduced it to most parts of the world as a way of increasing and managing pollination. Pretty much all other bee species (those not managed by humans) are considered “wild bees.” Very diverse, they come in a rainbow of colours and usually do not have a queen or live in hives.
Did you know? Research shows that bee populations are declining, for reasons that may include viruses, pesticide use, and habitat loss.Bee diversity is important because not all bees are good at pollinating all varieties of plants. For example, blueberry flowers require a bee that can vibrate in order for the pollen to be released, a process called buzz-pollination. Honey bees do not have this ability, so they cannot effectively pollinate blueberries. It is therefore important to understand bee diversity within any given environment to achieve optimal pollination.
Approximately 85% of all flowering plants depend on animals, including bees, for pollination. These pollinators help maintain a diversity of plants and ensure the pollination of crops. Yet the effects of human activity - including habitat fragmentation, climate change, changing land use, the planting of extensive monocultures, and the introduction of exotic species - have negatively impacted bee populations. As a result, the size and range of wild bee populations have declined, which makes a better understanding of these populations extremely important.
Did you know? "Abiotic factors" are non-living things in an environment. These include things that can affect how bees and other living things interact with the surrounding environment, such as the amount of sun and rain or soil types.Wild bees provide an excellent way of monitoring an environment, since bees are directly or indirectly dependent on the plants and abiotic factors found within their habitats. I am currently studying the effect that large fires have on wild bee populations. Few studies have explored the effect of fire on pollinators. Since bees are dependent on their surrounding environment for food and shelter, changes in the environment can affect bee diversity. Determining how bee populations are affected by large disturbances and how they can recover is one way of broadening our understanding of these precious pollinators.
Save the Bumble Bees
www.savethebumblebees.com Apoidea: Bees and Apoid Wasps (Discover Life)