In October of 2011, Cornell did an article on Chronicle OnLine that talked about Cornell entomology professor Bryan Danforth’s research into native bees.
It found that native pollinators are two to three times more effective than our beloved honeybees at pollination. The honeybee was an import from Europe and quickly became the bee most associated with the species. Native bees are more numerous than previously assumed and less prone to colony collapse disorder, attributable likely because many of the bees are solitary and live not in hives.
His study looks at pathogens, viruses and fungi that are damaging honeybee colonies and if they in turn affect native bee species.
The reasoning that natives are more effective pollinators is that honeybees are more interested in nectar and the native bees are primarily pollen collectors. That seems simple enough.
But what honeybees have over native bees is they are farmed. They can be shipped to crops where it would be too early for native bees to be active.
But since bees are shipped long distance, they are also exposed to additional pathogens and stresses according to Danforth. One thing of special note he mentioned, was that much of the pollination attributed to the honeybees, might likely be the work of the native bees.
And no one was much looking at native bees until the issue with colony collapse became headline news.
I have no idea which of the bees in my post are true natives since I cannot positively identify them, but I do suspect a number are. One I know for sure is the digger bee shown popping out of the nest in the ground. It is a pollinator of Spring fruit trees I showed at the tree and shrub farm. Another ground dweller is the Squash Bee, whose underground nest typically is tunneled a foot or so beneath the surface. This bee was new to me, but was photographed in my yard. The Carpenter Bees in my yard are native as is the mason bee in an image above.
I did not realize that bees are descended from wasps until recently. Most wasps either prey upon or parasitize other insects to feed their own brood, but millions of years ago wasps made the switch from hunting prey to gathering pollen for their young. This coincided when flowers started blooming. Somehow, the wasps ingested pollen and decided it was tasty, leading to the changeover from hunting to pollen collecting.
Pollen was a safer food source since it did not fight for its life when attacked. It is also rich in proteins which the wasps needed, so it was easy to make switch to be pollen gatherers. Gathering pollen and nectar is a much different job than that of hunter. New adaptations, like a pollen basket, allowed the wasp to become a bee.
Here is an interesting publication from Cornell on Native Bees that may be something you might want to read.
You can download this by clicking the image above or from the source Danforth Lab. Both take you the same place. It has very good information in the article, much more comprehensive that I can put in a post. It identifies the native bees and the plants that they use to collect pollen. Cornell Labs is a wonderful resource in so many areas.