Beyond the honey bee
This week the white house released their new National Pollinator Strategy. There are some good things and some not good enough things; you can read the whole Pollinator Health Strategy 2015 if you want.
In that spirit, I wanted to talk about pollinators. Animal pollinators, including lots of bees, are responsible for 1/3 of the food we eat. That’s a lot! Probably the first thing that comes to mind is the ubiquitous honey bee. And it’s true that most commercial crops rely on honey bee colonies that are moved around the country. This map from a North Caroline beekeeping organization shows some of the commercial honey bee routes. There are, however, many many more bees that are also pollinators. Focusing on the honey bee can actually be detrimental to native bee conservation, as detailed in this post.
Anyway, I spent the last couple weeks in California, doing a research project in school and home gardens. The bee diversity I came across was impressive, and I wanted to share! Below are a collection of my favorite bee photos from this year and last. They are mostly native California bees (although I couldn’t resist adding a honey bee in there).
Above and to the left are two yellow faced bumble bees (Bombus vosnesenskii), a bee common in California. This home garden had a booming population! Planting pollinator friendly plants will pretty much guarantee you’ll see one of these eventually (in California).
On the right is a large, black carpenter bee visiting a scarlet running bee at a high school garden. She was moving so fast it was hard to get any close up pictures!
Below is a green bee (Agopostemon texanus). I found this one in a library garden doing an entomology lesson for a group of 5-7 year olds. They loved it.
To the right is some sort of native bee in a thistle. I’m not sure exactly what it is as it flew away quickly… But it captures the essence of the mediums sized native bees found throughout California.
I also saw a ton of Halictus sweat bees. I wasn’t able to get a good photo of them, but there are some nice close ups of the tiny Halictus tripartitus on this UC Davis blog.
And, even though they aren’t native, I can’t resist adding the fuzzy honey bee covered in pollen. But seriously, look around for bees beyond the honey bee. There are a lot of them out there doing important pollination work!