Friends of the Bend: Wild bees

Everyone has heard about the “Saving the Bees” campaign, but how much do people know about their fuzzy-buzzy neighbors? Let’s learn about them.

By: Ashley Bergeron

Everyone has heard about the “Saving the Bees” campaign, but how much do people know about their fuzzy-buzzy neighbors? Let’s learn about them.

There are over 20,000 known bee species worldwide, with over 430 in Indiana and over 460 in Michigan. 

Contrary to the swarms we think of, the majority of wild bees are solitary. Bumble bees are an exception, as they do live in colonies. Their colonies are significantly smaller than honey bee colonies. Bumble bees live in colonies with a hundred individuals, whereas honey bees live in colonies with a thousand individuals. 

Despite humans taking care of honey bees, only two species are domesticated. The rest are wild species. 

Bees are important to the ecosystem and economy because they are pollinators. They are such active pollinators that bees pollinate 32 percent of agricultural land. 

There are 14 types of bees in our area: honey bees, bumble bees, carpenter bees, long-horned bees, sweat bees, squash bees, digger bees, polyester bees, masked bees, cuckoo bees, mason bees, leaf bees, miner bees and carder bees. 

Bees and wasps tend to get confused with each other. Let’s look over their physical differences. Bees have round, full bodies with thick legs. On the other hand, wasps have slim, narrow bodies with thin legs. Bees have fuzzy hairs all over their body. Wasps have shiny and smooth bodies.

Bees and wasps also have different diets. Bees are herbivores, while wasps are predators. 

Populations of bees have been going down to factors like pesticides, habitat loss and climate change. The rusty-patched bumblebee was the first bee to be listed on the endangered species list in 2017.

There are ways to help bees. Let’s go through them.

Instead of using pesticides, which are dangerous to other animals besides bees, use other ways to keep pests away.  

Some insects, such as ladybugs and praying mantises, can act as pest control. Instead of getting rid of these insects, encourage them to stay. A way to do this is to have a wide range of plants in your garden. Beneficial insects tend to come to gardens before pests, so make sure they have alternative foods like nectar so that they will stick around. 

Another way to control pests without pesticides is companion planting. Some plants help repel pests like flies and aphids. Herbs also are good at repelling pests.

Some other alternatives to pesticides are crop rotation, birds, nematodes and barriers. 

Bee baths are a way to help bees. As bees go from flower to flower, they get tired and will need a drink of water to help them stay hydrated. By building a bee bath, you will give a place to rest and drink up. Bee baths are made with either a bird bath or a shallow plate with rocks so that they will have a place to lay. Make sure that the water is shallow so that the bees won’t drown. 

Growing native plants is also a great way to help local wild bees. Native plants have a special relationship with wildlife, so bees are attracted to them. They also give the bees a source of food.

Sometimes, bees are unwanted. If that is the case, there is an Indiana Beekeepers Swarm List that the Indiana Department of Natural Resources gives out. They will remove or collect honey bees on your property. 

If you don’t want bees on your property, do not grow plants that attract bees, and take care of areas that could be potentially used for nests. 

If you want more information, you can check out The Bee Conservancy and Xerces Society for more information.

By The Preface at IUSB

IU South Bend's Official Student Newspaper

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