Introduction To Native Bees

Discussion in 'Mason & other alternative bees' started by riverbee, Nov 10, 2012.

  1. riverbee

    riverbee Active Member

    Messages:
    3,048
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    36
    a great pdf file on our native bees:

    Bee Basics: An Introduction To Our Native Bees

    "Native bees are a hidden treasure. From alpine meadows in the national forests of the Rocky Mountains to the Sonoran Desert in the Coronado National Forest in Arizona and from the boreal forests of the Tongass National Forest in Alaska to the Ocala National Forest in Florida, bees can be found anywhere in North America, where flowers bloom. From forests to farms, from cities to wildlands, there are 4,000 native bee species in the United States, from the tiny Perdita minimato large carpenter bees. Most people do not realize that there were no honey bees in America before European settlers brought hives from Europe. These resourceful animals (insects)promptly managed to escape from domestication. As they had done for millennia in Europe and Asia, honey bees formed swarms and set up nests in hollow trees. Native pollinators, especially bees other than honey bees, have been pollinating the continent’s flowering plants since long before the arrival of honey bees. Even in today’s vastly altered landscapes, they continue to do the yeomen’s share of pollination, especially when it comes to native plants.The honey bee, remarkable as it is, does not know how to pollinate tomato or eggplant flowers. It does very poorly compared to native bees when pollinating many native plants, such as pumpkins, cherries, blueberries, and cranberries. Let us take a closer look at this forgotten treasure of native bees.

    i would like to point out the last sentence of this introduction, native bees are better pollinators than our own honey bees. this pdf describes how native bees are better pollinators, and perhaps each of us might consider not only planting for our honey bees, but also our native bees, and providing nesting for those native bees that we can, much like omie does for her mason bees.

    this pdf covers:
    a variety of native bees and their value, history and morphology (anatomy)
    nesting
    foraging needs and floral specialization
    females and males
    families of bees
    conservation
    pollinator awareness
    what you can do
    resources
    additional readings
     
  2. Lburou

    Lburou Member

    Messages:
    553
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    16
    I'll enjoy reading that pdf, thanks. Native pollinators are here in large numbers south of the DFW metmroplex. There is a little one that looks like a honey bee, just a bit smaller. It is all over every bloom on my 3.5 acres. They have an incredible prevalence on my wildflowers, lantana, abelia and lavender where I rarely see honey bees. Wasps and beetles of all sizes and design are out there in force. :)
     

  3. Omie

    Omie New Member

    Messages:
    2,845
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Though it's a commercial site (I buy most of my native bee supplies from them), i find that CrownBees.com is the among the very best places to go online to learn all kinds of information concerning native and solitary bees- the species, their habits and life cycles, how to help them, what kind of nesting sites they require, a free calendar/newsletter for doing bees 'chores' at the right time on your area, etc...
    The owner Dave is very helpful and truly wants folks to succeed in raising and/or simply helping our native bees.
     
  4. Lburou

    Lburou Member

    Messages:
    553
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    16
  5. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

    Messages:
    6,487
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    a snip...
    i would like to point out the last sentence of this introduction, native bees are better pollinators than our own honey bees.

    tecumseh...
    the word 'better' might come into some dispute here??? better in what regards and in what context???

    none the less I like to give a certain amount of notice to the native pollinators and without a doubt do think they play an important role. the entomology folks here tell me there are from 400 to 600 species of native pollinators just in Texas. notice the breadth of this estimate from the folks who are suppose to KNOW!
     
  6. Omie

    Omie New Member

    Messages:
    2,845
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Tec, I understand that solitary and mason bees are 'better' pollinators in that they are more efficient in their forage range. That is, one mason bee will pollinate many more flowers in a day than one honeybee or bumblebee, including fruit and vegetable blooms- orchards, berries, etc.
    They are of course not honey producers like honey bees. And honeybees have larger forage distances. But a single colony of native bees can be cheaper/easier to maintain and can pollinate several times more fruit trees than a single honeybee colony can- at least that i what i've read in various publications, for example:

     
  7. ApisBees

    ApisBees Active Member

    Messages:
    2,060
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    36
    Omie must of been board while most watched the super bowl game and went back and resurrected this thread. Glad you did.
    Honey bees are one of the poorer pollinators! They wont work at cooler temps they are driven by the abundance of sweet nectar. The higher the sugar content the more attractive it is to them. The honey bees ability to travel a longer distance to reach more desirably sweet nectar's and ignoring plants close by. Honey bees are nectar driven by nature and most to the pollination that happens thru them happens by accident. As the bees gather nectar, they happen to spread a little pollen around, the majority of forager bees are on the quest for nectar, only a small percentage of them are seeking out pollen to bring back to the hive.

    After all that if they are such bad pollinators why are they so sought after?

    The number one answer is that they are manageable. The beekeeper can provide bees in quantities at the appropriate time to fulfill the pollination needs. We can place the colonies in the center so the first and closest source is the one needing to be pollinated. The area can be over saturated with bees so the small amount of surrounding more attractive forage is over worked, forcing the bees to collect nectar and pollen from the less desirable plants that need pollinating. Pollen traps can be used to remove some of the pollen being brought in to the hive causing a higher percentage of forager bees to be assigned pollen gathering duties. Pollen inserts can be employed in the hive so bees exiting the hive will be carrying a suitable pollen if cross species pollination is needed. Because of large block plantings of single crop or fruit variety's. The genetic make up of each plant is the same. If that plant needs to be cross pollinated so it can produce fruits then suitable cross pollinators must be used.
    These can be another species of plant inter-planted if their bloom timing coincides with the plants needing pollinating. Pollen can be saved from compatible plants, frozen and placed in pollen inserts when cross pollination is needed for the crop.
     
  8. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

    Messages:
    6,487
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    and I have read somewhere that the Africanized bee in a 'better' pollinator than the European honey bee. Why folks do not use the Africanized bee for pollination purpose I guess would be self evident. and of course some genetic lines of european honey bees do a better job of pollinating and other are better in nectar collection <directly or indirectly beekeepers are SELECTING stock and for a long time the primary selection criterion was nectar collection. Now given the economic realities in beekeeping we may inadvertently be selecting for better pollinators.
     
  9. kebee

    kebee Active Member

    Messages:
    1,008
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    36
    Matters not who is the better pollinator it is the honey I am after and none of the others make honey as good as the honey bees I house.

    kebee
     
  10. brooksbeefarm

    brooksbeefarm New Member

    Messages:
    3,276
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    One on one other bees may be better pollinators, but the build up of numers in the colony(workers) and the social structure going on inside the hive for survival, makes the honey bee superior over all the other bees. (jmho) Jack
     
  11. Omie

    Omie New Member

    Messages:
    2,845
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    How do those two things make them superior, Jack?
     
  12. brooksbeefarm

    brooksbeefarm New Member

    Messages:
    3,276
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Omie, i don't know that much about the number of native bees in a colony, but i doubt they build up to the 60,000 to 80,000 strong like the honey bee. Strength is in numbers and they can be transported and put to use on crops where there needed. Maybe i should have said superior for man.:grin: Jack
     
  13. Omie

    Omie New Member

    Messages:
    2,845
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    It depends on how you look at it. :) Solitary bees have been used for commercial pollination for a long time, and the thousands of tiny lightweight cocoons can be kept refrigerated and transported to a needed place to pollinate, just like honeybees, but much easier to propagate, transport, and store. Solitary bees don't live in a communal hive, and they hibernate over the winter as cocoons, so they don't need to consume large amounts of honey all winter to stay alive. After emerging and mating in the Spring, the bees go right to work nesting and pollinating for a month or two and then they simply die off, leaving only the cocoons in their nesting site, which will remain dormant until the following Spring. Each solitary bee will pollinate many more flowers each day than a honeybee will, so you don't even need as many in any given area. This is all pretty efficient when it comes to pollinating! Honey producers prefer honey bees of course. :)
     
  14. riverbee

    riverbee Active Member

    Messages:
    3,048
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    36
    List of crop plants pollinated by bees (and others)

    although i am not one to go to wikipedia, this is a great list that the fields can be sorted; plant name, pollinator, commercial product of pollination, pollinator impact, # of honey bee hives needed per acre and geography of cultivation. the pollinator column was of interest to me.

    omie said:
    "It depends on how you look at it."
    a thoughtful post omie.

    in the big picture, all of our pollinators, native and non native species; bees, wasps, flies, beetles, butterflies, moths, humming birds and bats, are all an integral part of the pollination eco system. many of us i think, including me, have taken the native species for granted and have ignored their significance. the native species were here pollinating long before our non native honey bees, continue to survive, and our native species pollinate some of our native plants that honey bees ignore. if those native pollinators disappeared so would those plants. honey bees pollinate some of our non-native plants that natives can't because of their weight.

    if one read the first 2 pages of the pdf, and as apis said, (and some other good points), honey bees are not as efficient at pollinating:
    "The honey bee, remarkable as it is, does not know how to pollinate tomato or eggplant flowers. It does very poorly compared to native bees when pollinating many native plants, such as pumpkins, cherries, blueberries, and cranberries."....."One example is the southeastern blueberry bee, Habropoda laboriosa,a hard working little creature capable of visiting as many as 50,000 blueberry flowers in her short life and pollinating enough of them to produce more than 6,000 ripe blueberries."

    i hear what you are saying jack, as far as agricultural pollination and sheer numbers, to have a large amount of fruit or vegetable produced per square foot of acreage,' saturation', you need a pollinator that has thousands of brood and foragers, and the honey bee is the only bee capable of this....and transportable. in that regard they would be 'superior' and 'efficient'.

    as far as the social structures of the solitary bee, omie has it down, but i don't think we can compare the two, their social structures are much different.

    also, apis made a good point about plant attractiveness; honey bees "are driven by the abundance of sweet nectar. The higher the sugar content the more attractive it is to them....Honey bees are nectar driven by nature ". honey bees will ignore or abandon low nectar sources, like pears, and apple trees (abc xyz) for those richer in sugar content. in short, especially with certain fruit trees if there are competing flowering, or other weed plants on the orchard floor higher in sugar content, honey bees will work these plants. i have seen my own bees work a dandelion bloom before they will work my apple tree in bloom. that's okay, my native pollinators work it.

    somewhere in my travels, and omie you can correct me on this, i read that the red mason bees (osmia rufa) are superior to pollinating apple trees and other fruit bearing trees, and many orchard owners purchase pre-populated tubes and utilize these bees to pollinate their orchards every year. and as you said, i am learning that solitary bees of all kinds are utilized for pollination because of their characteristics, and one is that many, by themselves, do the work of 100 or more honey bees in one day. ?

    we need all of our pollinators, and i think as beekeepers, we are a select few that truly understand and get the significance of pollination whether it be in our home gardens or in large scale contracts, and are in a position to help educate others. i know i have learned a great deal from omie's knowledge and posts on her mason bees.

    a link
    pollinator.org
     
  15. LizzeB

    LizzeB New Member

    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    I'm a bit on the defense with the topic of replacing honey bees with solitary bees, and mean no harm or hurtful intent when I share this....But, here's why:
    1. I'm a honey bee farmer and they've stole my heart....simply put.
    2. Many have gone from calling the "solitary" species of bees "native"..eh hem. Look at the facts on the common horned-faced. If the term "native" is going to be used so loosely, than I will now begin calling the European Honey Bee 'native' as it has been in N. America only about 370+ more years than the horned-face mason from Japan. Most people are not "native" to N. America, but somehow we've adapted. Just because two mites arrived here a couple of years apart, doesn't give us the justification to throw almost 400 years of our ancestors raising honey bees away.
    3. I'm also concerned of disease and parasites-what's not being discussed of the solitaries may effect all bee species. Solitary Bees contract pollen mites. Social bees have the defense of cleaning these mites off each other, and propolis to defend against this mite. Honey Bees also don't have an issue with parasitic wasps, due to their colonized protection. Honey bee industry is spending billions on trying to find better health for this bee as well as bumbles and many other species worldwide. I've been saddened by the sales pitches coming from some of the solitary producers that solitaries could be Messiah for the pollination dilemma. I do think they may help, but what happens when they disappear, too?
    4. Solitary bees are difficult to predict for some study. Ex: If a solitary doesn't come home, can you detect it was chemicals or parasites? There is no colony numbers to consider.
    5. Pollinating Tomatoes: The actual weight of bumble bee is very crucial. The bumbles weight makes the pollen 'fall' or bounce down to the accepting sex organ of the plant.

    I enjoy, aid, support, and respect the solitary bees, but PLEASE be cautious on the terminology and control the comparison of a solitary to a 'super-organism' such as the social species.
     
  16. LizzeB

    LizzeB New Member

    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Easy point: are you looking for "native" species of bees to pollinate "non-native" species of apple trees? Fact: Most apple varieties are not native to N. America, therefore fail to fall into the correct pollinating period for N. America.