MD
By Matt Dolkas,
Content Marketing Manager

No respect.

Until recently, wild bees didn’t get the respect they deserved. They were overlooked for the honeybee, their more popular and recognizable cousins.

Thanks to cutting edge conservation science, however, that’s all starting to change.

Here’s a fact to tell your friends: wild, free ranging bees residing in natural open spaces are pollinating upwards of 39% of our crops in California. Ready for another mindbender? These wild bees contribute the equivalent of up to $2.4 billion a year to the state’s agricultural economy!

Wow! Wait, what? Really?

Go ahead, you might need to read that last paragraph again. It changes your perspective on wild bees, right? It sure changed mine. I never knew how much farms needed wild bees. I always assumed that European honeybees were the ones doing the heavy lifting. Think again!

There are a lot of other reasons to be thankful for wild bees – tomatoes, for example. Honeybees, don’t know how to pollinate tomato or eggplant flowers. And they’re terrible when pollinating pumpkins, cherries, blueberries and cranberries.

What would the world be like without these wild bees? Without tomatoes? Can you imagine?

 

Ok, but let’s get back to the basics. What exactly is a “wild bee”? Where do they come from? And how are they different from the more recognized honeybee? Gosh, good questions!

Here’s what you need to know about wild bees:

  1. They are native to California as opposed to the honeybee, which has been introduced from Europe.
  1. They are solitary. Except for bumblebees, most of California’s wild bees are solitary and don’t create hives or have the social structures like honeybees.
  1. There are about 1,600 species of wild bees in California and only two species of introduced honeybee.
  1. They nest in our open spaces, burrowing underground or in cavities of dead wood. Most honeybees, on the other hand, live in portable man-made hives that are rented by farmers and moved around the farm and from farm to farm, even imported from different states.
  1. They are important pollinators. As you learned above, wild bees help pollinate over a third of California’s fruits and vegetables and contribute billions to the state’s agricultural economy.

It’s exciting to see wild bees beginning to receive the credit they deserve. Especially for all of us who love open spaces, it’s yet another example of how critical – and multifaceted – our open spaces and the biodiversity they support are to the health and vibrancy of our region.

Excited about protecting open spaces and farmland? That’s what we are working to do with our Farmland Futures Initiative – protecting a mosaic of different land use to ensure a resilient and productive landscape. Learn more and join us!

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About Post

Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects and cares for open space, farms and parkland in and around Silicon Valley. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 75,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties.

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