We all are aware of the honey bee and the bumble bee. They are probably the two most well known types of bees. Honey bees are not native to the US. They originated in Africa and have since made their way across the world as people take them to new places. Honey bees are great pollinators but we often forget about the native bees that were living here before the honey bees arrived. We have a vast amount of native bees in the US and Canada. We have more than 4000 species! Not all of these species occur in the Panhandle but we do have a nice diversity of bees. We have the very small metallic green bees we often call sweat bees to the large and charismatic bumble bee that seems to bumble around buzzing various flowers. All of these bees play a part in our local ecosystems and in your gardens. Studies have also shown that planting bee friendly plants in with your fruits and vegetables will increase your yield of fruits and veggies because of the different and large number of bees they attract. Studies have also shown that having bee friendly plants in your yard or garden increases the populations of bees in surrounding fields. This helps the wild flowers by increasing the pollinators in the area!
We have a wide variety of bees that live in our area and many of them are tiny and go unnoticed by the general population. Despite what many people believe bees are not out to sting you. They are visiting your garden for pollen and nectar and will often leave you and your family alone. There are some cases where you can get a stray hive of honey bees living in your backyard but this occasions are rare and often can be removed easily by calling a local bee keeper. They will often be more than happy to come and remove the colony for you. In most cases where people get stung the culprit is in a family of wasps called the Vespidae. This family includes your paper wasps, yellow jackets, and mud dobbers. Bees are most likely going to leave you alone. I personally have stuck my hands in many plants covered with bees to trim and deadhead and I have yet to be stung during these activities. Honey bees and bumble bees can be aggressive near their nests, but when they are out on their normal pollen and nectar collecting duties they are likely not to bother you.
We often think of bees as living in hives with honey combs or being in large paper nests that hang from trees. This is a misconception due to the amount of Yogi Bear we watched as children. Wasps are the ones that form paper nests that hang from trees. These nests do not contain honey. Honey bees nest in cavities like trees or cracks in rocks. Bumble bees are also social and will form nests in tree cavities or other structures. Most other bees actually nest in the ground or inside wood or twigs. Many native species of bees will dig a nest in the ground or nest inside a twig or a hole in a piece of wood. Here a single female will form a loaf of pollen and nectar mixed together and leave it for her offspring. She will make a loaf for each egg she lays which is normally 2-3.
You can help native bees by drilling holes in a block of untreated wood or leaving a bare spot of ground. Both of these places will eventually attract a single female bee to make a nest. Bees are important to both Agriculture and Nature. More and more we are cultivating different species of bees to shipped to farms to pollinate their crops. Honey bees are declining and we are becoming more reliant on native bees to pick up the pollinating slack. Reducing the use of pesticides in your yard to localized areas and using an organic pesticide like Safer TM which is no longer active after 7 days in your garden. You can take care of pest problems without hurting your beneficial insects like bees and butterflies. Stop by our Gallery of Bee photos and take a look at some of the native bees we have around here and maybe you will see some of these little guys in your garden!
By Samantha Sader with Canyon's Edge Plants
Wilson, Joseph S.; Messinger Carril, Olivia J. (2015-11-24). The Bees in Your Backyard: A Guide to North America's Bees. Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.