Honeybees are the best-known and most recognizable insect pollinators in our farms and gardens. Without them, we’d have no peaches, nectarines, apples, almonds, lemons, oranges, eggplants, tomatoes, etc.
Still, those bees are native to Europe. They are imports that are neither Californian nor even American. But California is home to hundreds of kinds of native bees. In fact, the southwest is home to one of the world’s richest assemblages of the bees that serve as critical pollinators in most ecosystems. And wild insects, including native bees are thought to help pollinate more than 50 percent of agricultural crops around the world.
In this episode, we’ll explore California’s native bees and their role in native ecosystems, farms, and gardens. We’ll visit with a young researcher at UCSD doing critical work identifying and assembling an inventory of California native bees, many of which are threatened by habitat loss as a result of human development.
We’ll hear from Crown Bees, a Washington state company that “grows” and sells native bees and educates communities across the continent. They’ll introduce us to orchard mason bees, one of the more common native bees, their characteristics and how to create spaces to attract them into our gardens.
Local beekeeper James McDonald tells us how as much as he loves his honeybees, he works to educate the community to appreciate and encourage native bees as well.
Along the way, we’ll explore the bee lifecycle to understand why some bees make honey and others don’t, why most bees are solitary (they don’t make hives), about the importance of pollen and much more.