Happy Pollinator Week!
Since 2007 the US Department of Agriculture has designated one week in June to recognize, educate, and celebrate the important role that pollinators play in our ecosystem. Around 75% of flowering plants need the help pollinators – birds, butterflies, flies, wasps, beetles, ants, moths, small mammals, bats, and (of course) bees – to reproduce. Many of those plants are the fruits and vegetables we enjoy eating!
The native plants at Bolsa Chica are a good place to discover many pollinators, but for now, let’s look at the bees. Most of us know of the honey bee, and you may be aware of the troubles they are facing with colony collapse disorder – a disease killing many honey bee colonies used by farmers to fertilize their crops.
But did you know that the honey bee is not a native bee? Did you know that California has around 1,600 native bees species? And while these bees do not produce honey, native bees do play a big role in pollinating our native plants at Bolsa Chica – they also like many non-native plants as well.
These native bees come in all sorts of sizes, shapes, and colors. Unlike the large hives of honey bees, most native bees live solitary lives burrowing in the ground or in convenient spaces in and around plants. They also like bird or bat houses.
Let’s look at just a few found at Bolsa Chica…
The Green Metallic Bee (Agapostemon sp.) or Striped Sweat Bee, is small (~11mm) and a beautiful metallic jewel green. This one is female. Male bees have prominent black and yellow stripes on their abdomens. Sweat bees get their name because they like to land on people to sip their sweat for the salt content.
This Cuckoo Bee (Tetraloniella pomonae) likes to lay their eggs in the nest of other bees, like the Cuckoo bird. This bee gathers and carries pollen on its hairy legs.
The Anthophora curta is another native bee species but without a common name. A medium sized bee with black and whited banded abdomen, white hairs, and green eyes, this bee is super cute. Notice the pollen collected on its back leg.
- UC Berkeley Urban Bee lab www.helpabee.org
- Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation https://xerces.org/
- http://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/pdf/8498.pdf (A publication from the UC Argriculture and Natural Resources about pollinators in your garden.)
- https://baynature.org/2014/06/19/gordon-frankie-revisited/ (A good interview about bees.)
photos: courtesy of Steve Eric Smith. All bees were photographed on the Endangered Southern Tar Plant (Centromadia parryi ssp. australis)