Hive and Seek: Domestic Honeybees Keep Disappearing, but Are Their Wild Cousins in Trouble, Too? [Slide Show]
Is colony collapse disorder just the visible part of a "global pollinator crisis"? The answer is surprisingly murky. To help answer the question, scientists have created an inexpensive, nationwide wild bee monitoring program
Credits: Graham Snodgrass
13. Squash Bees These bees rely on plants in the squash family (including pumpkins, watermelons and gourds) for several parts of their life cycle. Squash flowers provide
Peponapis mating territories, sleeping places for males, and pollen and nectar for young. Some species have expanded their ranges to follow the agricultural propagation of squash plants.
Peponapis pruinosa, from the Packer Collection at York University
12. Small Leaf Cutters
Osmia count as important pollinators of fruit crops such as apple, cherry, pear and plum. In pollinating an acre of apple trees, just 250 Osmia bees can do the job of 10,000 to 25,000 honeybees.
Osmia semillima, from the Packer Collection at York University
11. Masked Bees A
Hylaeus bee does not carry pollen or nectar externally, as other bees do; instead, it hides it in its crop. The only genus of bees native to Hawaii, they also turn up in other parts of North America. The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation lists 18 Hylaeus species as "critically imperiled"; seven of them bear the label "critically imperiled and possibly extinct."
Hylaeus ornatus, from the USGS Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Laboratory
10. Long-Horns Eucerine males often have very long antennae.
Cemolobus ipomoeae, from the USGS Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Laboratory Advertisement
09. Carpenters These bees bore into wood to create nests. In some species of small carpenter bees (
Ceratina), daughters or sisters may cooperate to raise the next generation. The genus contains a few unusual species that can reproduce without males in a process called parthenogenesis. Large carpenters ( Xylocopa) lay fewer eggs than other bees, but their eggs are the largest of any insect—at 1.5 centimeters in diameter, each one is half the size of the adult bee.
Ceratina calcarata, from the Packer Collection at York University
08. Leaf Cutters
Megachile bees use their large mandibles to chop up leaves and flowers to use in nest-building.
Megachile relativa, from the Packer Collection at York University
07. Bumble Bees The buzz of these insects vibrates flowers into releasing their pollen. Bumblebees are one of a handful of native bees that form colonies, boast a queen and can grow to populations numbering around a thousand. Several species are in decline and one,
Bombus franklini, is listed as a "species of concern" by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Bombus andersoni, by Graham Snodgrass
06. Honey Bees Honeybees (
Apis mellifera) pollinate crops commercially. Populations have tanked for decades, causing much concern for this exotic species. An import from Europe, they often cannot pollinate as efficiently as native New World bees. Because they live in large colonies, honeybees are more manageable in apiaries than are native species, which tend to be solitary.
Packer Collection at York University Advertisement
05. Wool Carders Female
Anthidium bees have five or more sharp teeth that they use to harvest hairs from the leaf surface, which they use to build their nests.
Anthidium manicatum, from the Packer Collection at York University
Anthophora bees dig tunnels in soil. Some species' tongues can extend up to 2.5 centimeters in length, longer than the rest of their bodies, allowing them to pollinate deep flowers. In some species, several males snooze on the same flower, clasping the plant with their jaws.
Anthrophora bomboides, from the Packer Collection at York University
03. Sweat Bees Human sweat is nectar for sweat bees, and they slurp it up for its salt content.
Agapostemon sweat bees show off their flashy green and blue colors. Some species nest communally: up to 24 females will share a nest but raise their offspring independently. Some Lassioglossum sweat bees line their nest entrances with lactone secretions. Each individual has its own chemical signature that helps it to recognize its nest when returning from foraging.
Agapostemon virescens, from the Packer Collection at York University
02. Cuckoos Several bee genera—including
Nomada, Sphecodes and Coelixys—are klepto-parasites, more alluringly known as "cuckoo bees." Instead of collecting pollen to provide for their young, cuckoos lay their eggs in other bees' nests. Once hatched, cuckoo larvae kill the hosts' young and eat their provisions.
Sphecodes clematidis, from the Packer Collection at York University Advertisement
01. Polyester Bees
Colletes bees are nicknamed "polyester bees" because they enclose their broods in a cellophanelike material that keeps out water and fungi.
Colletes mitchilli, from the USGS Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Laboratory Advertisement