Tour Stop: Native Bees

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Most people come to this garden to see butterflies, but there are plenty of other insects here.   One of the most important groups is the bees.  Most of us think “honey bee” when we hear the word “bee,” but did you know that honey bees are not native to the United States?  They were brought here in 1622 by early colonists who recognized their importance to agriculture.

If you take a close look at these Partridge Peas, you will see many other kinds of bee as well. These are our native bees, sometimes called “pollen bees” because, although they do not make a lot of honey, they do collect pollen like honey bees, and are very important pollinators.  Approximately 500 native bees can be found in Texas, from huge hairy carpenter bees and bumblebees, some of which are well over an inch long, to tiny, metallic sweat bees that measure less than 1/4 inch.

Everyone who grows fruits and vegetables, from large-scale farmers to home gardeners, has been concerned over the reduced populations of honey bees caused by parasitic infections, pesticides, fungicides, and competition from the Africanized honey bees. So, it is good news that native bees may be more efficient than honey bees for pollinating certain flowers and crops.   For example, bumblebees are the preferred pollinators for greenhouse-grown tomatoes, and pumpkin growers from Wisconsin to Alabama are recognizing the value of squash bees that often outnumber honey bees visiting squash blossoms.

Stand very still in front of this bed of Partridge Peas and see how many different kinds of bee you can find. You will see the most activity if you come in the morning on a sunny day.

Learn more about native bees you may see in the park: