There are over 3000 described species of bees in the United States. Bees are an important key species; being one of the main pollinators for terrestrial ecosystems. Bees are able to transfer pollen from the male part of the flower to the female part of the flower. About 80% of plants need pollinators to reproduce. In many ecosystems a decrease in bee population can cause a change in the biodiversity and abundance of plants.
There are many species of bees! Let’s focus on the differences between bumble bees and honey bees.
There are over 250 species of bumble bees. One of California’s native species is the California Bumblebee, Bombus californicus. This bumble is one of five that are found in the San Francisco area. You can identify them by the large patch of black in the center of their bodies and the yellow hairs along the front and back making them look and feel fury. This particular bumble bee has black hairs on its face. The wings are chunky and visible when the bee is still. Bumble bees have up to 50 members in their nests. Even though Bumble bees are closely related to the honey bee they do not produce a large amount of honey but are main pollinators for native plants and flowers.
A honey bee is sleeker looking and posses thin wings. These bees are able to have colonies up to 2000 in a hive. Honey bees produce honeycomb and a large amount of honey. Both the bumble and honey bee are depleting in population. What is happening to the bees? There are a lot of talks and scientific research around bees and their disappearance. One issue is called Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD. This is a problem that affects the health of the bees weakening their immune system. Other threats consist of climate change, chemical exposures (pesticides), disappearing habitats, disease, and the Varroa mite. A major concern with the decline of the bee population is if the population drops too low, pollination may have to be done by human hands.
Help the local bees thrive by planting native plants like California poppies! Without these amazing pollinators our plants and crops wouldn’t be the same.