It seems most people don’t realize that honeybees are not native to North America. They were brought over from Europe for their sweet regurgitated and fermented bee spit. Honey is one of the longest lasting foods in the world. Imagine how valuable that would be in the days before refrigeration.

Native bees pollinate 80 percent of the country’s flowers, fruits and vegetables, and seem to go unappreciated by most of us. With 4,000 species from the tiny Perdita to larger Carpenter Bees, they can be found anywhere in North America where flowers bloom.   

There are a lot of plants that the honeybee is not capable of pollinating, including tomatoes, eggplant, pumpkins, squash, blueberries and cranberries. Let’s take a closer look at the forgotten treasure of native bees.  

They remain unnoticed by most of us, and yet they provide valuable services to all kinds of flowering plants. The Southeastern Blueberry Bee is capable of visiting 50,000 blueberry flowers in her short life. That is enough to produce 6,000 ripe blueberries, worth around $20 at the market. Not every bee is worth $20, but they are a key component to our ecosystem.   

Bees are descended from wasps.  Most wasps are carnivores; they either prey upon parasites, or other little insects, using the rich protein to feed their babies. Somewhere along the line, they started to prefer the gathering of pollen from flowering plants for their brood. The advantages to feeding on pollen instead of bugs seems pretty obvious. Pollen is also rich in proteins and doesn’t fight back, so it’s easy to see the advantage. So, take a closer look at the bees you see around your flowering plants this summer. Maybe you will start to appreciate the natives a little more.  

 

God bless you all, RHM.