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What's the Buzz about Bees?

We are hearing more about bees since the Africanized Honeybee has become a growing problem as it expands its territory north into cities and rural areas. But bees are fascinating in their own right. And there's something you probably don't know about honey bees!

The following conversation with a bee expert, Dave Green, took me by surprise...and you might find it interesting, too:

"I do have a question about bees. Somewhere I read that honeybees are not native to the US. If that is true, what are/ were the native pollinators prior to the honey bee's arrival?"

The European honeybee was brought here in colonial times. There was a tropical honeybee (that is still kept) in Central and South America. There are also about 2000 species of wild solitary bees, and a half dozen species of bumblebees.

Wild bees have suffered enormous losses from pesticide misuse (as have honeybees - some beekeepers driven out of business). I was amazed at the diversity of bees and population levels in the (pesticide free) Sonoran Desert in Arizona last year, when we visited. It used to be like that in South Carolina, but the bees have dropped off dramatically.

But wild bees would not be sufficient for modern agriculture, without some kind of culture to increase the numbers at bloom time. Even since grandpa's day, times have change. It used to be that a big watermelon grower was one who grew 3-5 acres. Now a big watermelon grower grows hundreds of acres. Bees MUST be brought in for such pollination situations.

I used to think that there would always be enough bees for small plots and gardens. But I see many symptoms of inadequate pollination in these, as well.

"Has intensive agriculture (the use of acres of only ONE kind of plant vs. natural vegetation that mixes many kinds of plants in a location) created a need for more efficient pollinators...thus the honeybee is the prime choice?"

Yes. Also, many of our main food crops were introduced -- apples for example. Most native agriculture was based on corn (maize), beans (some of which do not need bees) and squash/pumpkins, which were pollinated by the little squash bees that are so rare today. These crops were called the "Three Sisters" by Native Americans, and provided a fairly good diet.

If you want to learn more about bees, I recommend checking out Dave's web site at

Remember to take a "nature break" for the fun and wonder of it!

For more articles about INSECTS

Lady Bug Invasion
Moths and Nightlights
Bees in the City
Insects are busy little critters
Earth's Most Successful Life Form
Keeping ants in nature