The bees are back in town…digging in the yard

Actually, these Andrenid bees never left town. These small native bees spend most of the year underground and emerge every spring. I have written about their biology before.

Bee emerging from its mound. Photo: S.D. Fran

One question I have always had about these bees is: “What do they eat?” Looking around the neighborhood I don’t see many flowers. I have seen the bees loading up on camellia pollen but that is certainly not what they evolved to do. What are these little bees eating in urban and suburban habitats and what plants did they evolve with?

In my yard I have four plants blooming: Crocus, Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium), native pachysandra (Pachysandra procumbens), and witch hazel (which is really about finished). Oh, pansies are also blooming.

Looking on the ground this is all the bees have. Looking up, though, I see red maples blooming which are an important early season pollen source for native and honey bees. Other trees like red bud are also starting to bloom.

Elsa Youngsteadt, in my lab, is doing some initial work on these bees and what types of pollen they collect and how they use red maples, which are one of the most common street trees. This will compliment some of the other native bee research being done by April Hamblin and Margarita López-Uribe.

2017-06-29T10:23:07-04:00 March 25th, 2015|Categories: Natural History and Scientific Adventures, Pollinators|

About the Author:

Steve Frank
I am broadly interested in the ecology and management of arthropod pests. Herbivorous arthropods cause extraordinary damage to plants in agricultural, urban, and natural ecosystems. Understanding interactions between pests and their environment, plant hosts, and natural enemies can improve management practices and reduce pesticide applications.