Native Bees for Agricultural Producers
Did you know that 70%
of all bees nest in the ground?
We are fortunate to have so many species of native bees in Oregon! With over 500 species identified, we know now how important they are for our food production. So many types of crops in the Rogue Valley, from blueberries
and apples, squash and cucumbers, herbs and
tomatoes, alfalfa and sunflowers, depend on
non-honey bee species for pollination!
Native bees don't always look like a 'bee', from very tiny, like a small carpenter bee, to quite large, like a bumble bee, with different color patterns than the honey bee.
We rarely are lucky enough to see where native bees live - not in a hive, like a honey bee! Some bees are crevice nesters, finding holes in fences or trees, or hollow stems and stalks, or perhaps in a container with straws that a farmer provides. But 70% of all bees (a bee is not wasp!) nest underground! Which means these nests could be at risk in fields as farmers change their crops for the seasons .... or even worse, if pesticides are used.
Different species have different life cycles. With exceptions for bumble bees, carpenter bees, and a few other species, most native bees remain in the nest the majority of their life cycle. First an egg, then a larvae, and then a fully-formed adult waiting to emerge when the time is right for that species. And most bees are solitary, meaning the female will die after about six weeks, after laying eggs, never to see her offspring. Bumble bees and carpenter bees however, live much longer, and mated females will live almost a year, some of it underground in diapause state until spring brings early flowers. We love this brochure by Xerces about bumbles.
Another complicated characteristic of native bees is that many species are "seasonal", appearing as adults only during certain times of the year. For instance, mason bees fly in the spring, perfect for berry bushes and fruit trees as they come into bloom. Long-horned bees, aka sunflower bees appear in late summer, when the sunflowers are in full glory. (See a long-horned bee on the sunflower on our home page
banner.) And, a recent arrival to southern Oregon, the
squash bee, is the best pollinator for - yup! - squash!
Which bees, when?
What about baby bees?
We were pleased to collaborate with Our Family Farms to help create this brochure about how native bees support our agricultural production. Learn more about this important project and Our Family Farms here.
Farming for Native Bees
So then next time you thank a food producer .....
thank a native bee, too!
Visit Our Family Farms for additional resources, and to learn about regenerative farming,
climate change, and how the choices we make can make a difference.