Are Important Pollinators
Wild bees are vital pollinators within our eco-system. Whilst honey
bees are well recognised for this role, the contribution of their wild
cousins is often unrecognised, although this is changing, if rather
It's worth remembering that there are relatively few wild
honey bee colonies left.
The resurgence in beekeeping is a fairly
recent phenomenon, and so you have to ask yourself this question:
"given that honey bees are generally limited in location by the
presence of beekeepers and where they keep their hives, which species
have been pollinating the vast majority of gardens, countryside, public
planting schemes all these years?"
The answer of course has to be wild bees, along with a zillion other unsung pollinating heroes from flies to moths and beetles.
This does not mean that honey bees are irrelevant. Honey bees play a very important role. A honey bee colony is a fascinating super organism. See below for a link to further information about the importance of honey bees.
But indeed what we have to accept is that, insect pollination
is vital for many crops, and yet, with the a few exceptions, we hardly
know which species is best suited to pollinate which plant or food crop!
So, here are a few snippets of information about wonderful wild bees, especially with regard pollination.
The Importance Of Wild Bees For Pollination
Above: Bumblebee heading for blueberry flowers
- Not all bees are able to ‘buzz pollinate’ which involves releasing
pollen by shaking it from the anthers in flowers. Bumblebees manage this
by placing their thorax close to the anthers and vibrating their flight
muscles, thus shaking the pollen from the anthers. They are therefore
excellent pollinators of tomatoes and other fruits, and pollination by
bumblebes results in more abundant crops (the Dutch have been using
bumblebees commercially for pollination since the 1980s).
- The southeastern blueberry bee (Habropoda laboriosa)
of the southeastern United States is another example of a bee that is
able to buzz pollinate. This species forages primarily on blueberries.
The southeastern blueberry bee attaches herself to the blueberry flower
and vibrates her flight muscles very rapidly, which releases pollen from
the flower which is then collected by the bee. Of course, some of the
pollen shaken from the flower clings to the hairy body of the bee, and
is transferred from one flower to another, causing pollination to occur.
- Different bee species have differing body shpes, weights and tongue
lengths. Basically, some are better adapted for pollinating certain
plants than other species. For this reason, all of our bee species (and
other pollinators!) are important.
- Some bees pollinate faster
than others! Under similar conditions, bumblebees reportedly pollinate
more flowers per bee than honey bees (from: Bumblebees Behaviour and
Ecology; Prof. Dave Goulson; citing Poulson 1973; Free 1993).
- Some wild bees are super-efficient pollinators! A study by Bosch and
Kemp, 2001 showed that only 250 female Osmia lignaria (blue orchard
bees - or orchard mason bee) are required to pollinate an acre of apples, yet this would
usually have needed the service of one to two honey bee hives, with
15,000 to 20,000 workers in each!
Indeed, the general role and value of mason bees in pollination is increasingly being recognised.
Mason bees can easily be attracted into the garden or yard by supplying a bee house. I have had great success with this bee house pictured below. You can watch the bees using it by going to my page about mason bees here.
This exact same log is available from Amazon US and also from Amazon UK.
However, other excellent bee houses are available (see below for recommendations)
- Some studies (such as Corbet
et al 1993) state that some bumblebee species especially, are quite
tough little creatures, and are able to pollinate during adverse weather
conditions, such as cold weather. Indeed, you can learn about how the
bumblebee queen gets warmed up as she emerges following hibernation, and
prepares to face a cool morning on this page (opens new window):
Recommended solitary bees houses:
From Amazon US:
From Amazon UK:
Body Snatcher Wasps!
Why are farmers turning to wasps to help them control crop eating pests?
Learn more. Go from Wild Bees to.....
This page provides you with links to more information.
Learn more about why all bees are such important pollinators.
A great way to help bees is to provide lots of great bee plants. Whether you have a small or large space, or even clay soil, shade or dry conditions, there are plants for bees!
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