Native Pollinators in North Carolina

Outreach and Information from the Steve Frank Lab

North Carolina is home to more than 500 species of native bees, many of which are economically important pollinators. These insects are essential for agriculture, home gardens, and natural habitats in our state.

We want to help you get to know the native bees in your yard and garden—-their diversity, benefits, and habitat requirements. We provide information and events about native bees for North Carolinians of all ages.

We are also developing materials especially for county agents and Extension Master Gardeners to use in their own programs.

Why Bees?

1. Bees pollinate food plants. In North Carolina alone, bee pollination accounts for about $120 million in commercial fruit and vegetable yields annually. Managed honey bees do up to 80 percent of this work, and native bees do the rest. Even when honey bees are present, native bees improve yields of many fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Home and community gardens also incorporate many bee-dependent crops, such as tomatoes, blueberries, and pumpkins.

2. Bees pollinate wild plants. Most flowering plants (not just crops) benefit from animal pollinators, especially bees. Many of North Carolina’s native plants, from Claytonia to coneflowers, reproduce and maintain robust populations with the help of bee pollinators.

3. Native bees are easy to support in your yard. Not everyone wants to manage a honey bee hive, but you can attract and support wild bees with minimal effort. You may even find that observing bees—their diversity of forms and behaviors—enriches your experience of your yard and garden.

Featured Species

Here are some of our favorite native bees.  They are relatively common in urban areas and you can easily observe them in your yard or garden.

Squash Bees

These hard-working, early-risers are specialists on plants in the genus Cucurbita. They have a really cool life history and help create some of our favorite summer staples–squash (and pumpkins and zucchini)! Learn more…

Sweat Bees

These tiny and often brightly colored bees are often mistaken for flies, partially because they are attracted to sweat! In addition to drinking salts from sweat these little beauties are important pollinators. Learn more…

Carpenter Bees

Large carpenter bees (Xylocopa virginica) are among our most common and recognizable urban bees. They resemble bulky bumble bees, but can be distinguished by their shinier abdomen and rounder face. This species tunnels into wood to build its nests, sometimes earning it pest status, but it is also an effective pollinator of many plants, including passion vine, apple, and blueberry. Learn more…