Bees are flying insects that collect nectar and pollen.
Over 4,000 bees are native to the U.S. and Canada; around a 1,000 species occur in Texas. A number of non-native bees have also been introduced into the U.S. with the best known being the European honey bee. That bee is the only bee in the U.S. that produces honey.
Below are some of the bees that can be seen at West 11th Street Park during the year. Click on each to learn more.
Bees have a long complex tongue that lets them collect nectar from flowers, they all have antennae, they all have six legs and they all have two pairs of wings. Bees are covered with hairs that carry an electrostatic charge which acts like a magnet for pollen, a feature that makes them excellent pollinators. Most females have bristly combs on the hind legs or dense brushes on the underside of their abdomen to manipulate and carry pollen. Some bees have additional stiff hairs on their bodies that form pollen-carrying baskets. Female bees periodically stop foraging and groom themselves to pack the pollen into balls.
The best known species of bee is the European honey bee, which as the name suggests, produces honey. Many bees are foragers and will gather pollen from a variety of plants, while other bees will only collect pollen from only one type of plant. The act of foraging for pollen results in the transfer of pollen from flower to flower.
Nine bumble bee species are currently known to occur in Texas. To learn how to identify bumble bees, click here. While out collecting nectar and/or pollen, bumble bees can be easily observed. Away from their nests, individual bumble bees actively foraging on flowers are seemingly oblivious to our presence or fly away if approached to close. Bumble bees foraging on flowers are ideal subjects for digital imagery and documentation. As they are social insects, if you discover a bumble bee nest site, treat it with respect as they will defend their colony if disturbed.
Only a small number of bees in Texas are social and live in colonies. These social bees, like the honey bees and bumble bees, live in groups consisting of a queen and her daughter workers. These colonies have relatively large work forces (10,000-40,000 workers in a honey bee colony and 300-600 in a bumble bee colony). Because these colonies have a queen, her developing offspring, and food resources to protect, social bees will mount a defense against what they perceive as danger.
Bees are capable of delivering stings to ward off danger, however, only females possess stingers. Male bees do not possess a stinger. The majority of bee species in Texas live solitary lives and do not live in large, cooperative colonies. Because they are solitary these bees do not actively defend their colonies through sting attacks. These bees will fly off if their nest site is disturbed.
An interesting fact is that until recently, it was not understood how a bee could fly! In 2005 a Cal tech study using high-speed cinematography revealed that sufficient lift was generated by the unconventional combination of short, choppy wing strokes (a rapid rotation of the wing as it flops over and reverses direction) with a wing-beat frequency of 230 times per second! This is the buzzing sound you hear.