Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick: Native Bee Team (for the Week of May 27, 2007)

May 23, 2007

Q. Dear Twig: Are there other bees besides honeybees and bumblebees?

A. There sure are. North America alone is home to 4,000 native bee species. And they aren't all mean and sting-y but in fact are usually docile ("DOSS-uhl"; calm, no trouble). They range in size from the tiny sweat bee, not much bigger than a grain of rice, to the size-of-a-bumblebee carpenter bee, as big as or bigger than the end of your thumb, depending on how big your thumb is.

Native bees also include mason bees, which gob shut their nest holes with mud, like masons (people who build things with stone and brick), and leafcutter bees, which ... cut leaves. They line their nests with cut-off leaf parts.

Other names for mason bees include orchard bees, blue orchard bees, blue mason bees and blue orchard mason bees. But not, it seems, blue bees of masons ... who have orchards ... and the orchards have bees in them.

Next: How native bees help us! How we can help native bees!

Twig

P.S. Honeybees aren't in fact native to North America. European colonists brought them here.

Notes: Native North American bees also include squash bees (don't), digger bees, cuckoo bees, alkali bees, blueberry bees, sunflower bees and the great-named shaggy fuzzyfoot bee. Sources included "Alternative Pollinators: Native Bees" by the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, http://www.attra.org/attra-pub/nativebee.html. Ohio State bee scientists (they study bees, they aren't bees themselves) include Jim Tew of the Department of Entomology and the OARDC Honey Bee Lab at Wooster, http://beelab.osu.edu; and Karen Goodell of the Department of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology on Ohio State's Newark campus, http://www.newark.osu.edu/kgoodell/.

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, knebusch.1@osu.edu, (330) 263-3776. Online at http://extension.osu.edu/~news/archive.php?series=science.

Author(s): 
Kurt Knebusch