Wild bees

I’ve seen some mention of wild bees and other pollinators in some of hte articles I’ve read this year about the threats to bees – but those articles have been primarily focused on honeybees, because colony collapse disorder has become well-known, along with the fear that it would lead to honeybee populations dropping too low to keep pollinating enough crops.

You’re Worrying About the Wrong Bees focuses on the wild bees:

The bees you should be concerned about are the 3,999 other bee species living in North America, most of which are solitary, stingless, ground-nesting bees you’ve never heard of. Incredible losses in native bee diversity are already happening. 50 percent of Midwestern native bee species disappeared from their historic ranges in the last 100 years. Four of our bumblebee species declined 96 percent in the last 20 years, and three species are believed to already be extinct.

It also points out (as have some of the other articles) that wild bees are better pollinators than honeybees. They are more efficient, and in some cases, they are pollinating plants that honeybees can’t pollinate at all.

In watermelons, native bees do 90 percent of the pollination.
Native bees improve fruit production in apples. Native bee pollination creates twice as much fruit as honey bees in blueberries. In tomatoes, native bee species increase fruit production significantly.

Honey bees aren’t physically big enough to successfully pollinate tomatoes; it takes a burly bumble bee to do the job. In a lot of crops, specialist pollinators do a better job than generalist honey bees.

Honeybees are easier to study, though, and almost all of what we know about how neonicotinoids affect bees is really about how neonics affect honeybees. There’s been a recent study (linked to in the above article) that indicates wild bees are affected much worse by neonics than honeybees – and honeybees have people to care for them, to try and prevent populations declining too much.

However, much like the spotted owl is used to draw attention to and protect something much larger (old growth forest), honeybees are well-known and relatively charismatic, and by drawing attention to the damage they are suffering by habitat destruction, overuse of pesticides, etc., this can lead to people learning more about the threats to the rest of the insects we depend on to keep ourselves fed – and the same things that will support honeybees (restoring habitat, less use of bee-killing/sickening pesticides, etc.) will also be good for the wild bees. The Xerces Society has resources for people in the US and Canada to help improve habitat for pollinators.

Wild bees are awfully cute, too; I spent several minutes earlier this week watching dozens of tiny, dark bees flying and crawling all over a flowering native shrub.

(Because it’s got a lot of good info in it, and info I hadn’t read before about how honeybee immunity plays into things, I’m going to include a link to this on colony collapse disorder; however, I think the author is willfully ignoring the “one cause” behind all the more direct bee-killing things – and since the focus is on CCD and honeybees, the impacts of pesticides are kind of being brushed off. The author’s info on wild bees also seems to be out of date or just flat out incorrect.)

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About Fjothr Lokakvan

More or less Northern Tradition polytheist.
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