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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick: Bee Good! But Why? (for the Week of June 3, 2007)

May 24, 2007

Q. Dear Twig: Alright, I'll ask. How do native bees help us?

A. Most native bees go by two other names: solitary bees and pollen bees. Scientists call them solitary bees because most types live and nest alone, not in hives with thousands of others.

And scientists call them pollen bees because they (the bees) fly from flower to flower and gather up lots of pollen to eat.

The process spreads pollen from flower to flower because some of it falls off or rubs off the bees. The stuff is really powdery.

The pollen serves to fertilize the flowers. The flowers form new seeds, fruit or both. This leads, in the end, to new plants, too. And that's how native bees help us (as do honeybees).

That is, we eat all sorts of these fruits, seeds and plants. They wouldn't exist without pollination.

Get this: A scientist in Texas said native bees might be 100 times better at pollinating than honeybees are. Unbeelievable! But only honeybees give us honey.

Next: Build a house for native bees!


P.S. Grapes, apples, lettuce and raspberries, to name a few, all get helped by bee pollination.

Notes: Other crops that need or benefit from bee pollination include (but aren't limited to) carrots, onions, melons, pumpkins, celery, cucumbers, strawberries and sunflowers, plus clover and alfalfa, which farmers grow to feed to their livestock. Read the whole list and more in OSU Extension's "Bee Pollination of Crops in Ohio," Sources also included "Most Bees Live Alone," Science News, Jan. 6, 2007, and "Native Bees Could Fill Pollinator Hole Left by Honeybees," from Texas A&M University by way of ScienceDaily, March 14, 2006. About 3,500 of North America's 4,000 or so native bee species are solitary bees.

About this column: "Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick," a free public service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences - specifically, of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) and Ohio State University Extension, both part of the College - is a weekly column for children about science, nature, farming and the environment. The reading level typically rates at grades 3.5-4.5. For details, to ask Twig a question, and/or to receive the column free by mail or e-mail, contact Kurt Knebusch, CommTech, OSU/OARDC,1680 Madison Ave., Wooster, OH 44691,, (330) 263-3776. Online at

Kurt Knebusch