Beyond the honey bee: Learn more about California native bees

Image of a yellow-faced bumble bee on a flower.

Why care about bees?

Bees are important as indicators of environmental quality, are key in the continued existence of our wildlands, vital to sustainable pollination of crops, and serve as food that supports a diversity of other species. In addition, bees are critical to the health of natural, ornamental and agricultural landscapes.

Beyond the honey bee

Most people can recognize non-native, ever- present European honey bees, but many are unaware of the 1600 species of native bee that can be found in California, many of them in our own gardens. While honey bees are social, live in hives and cooperate with one another, most of our native bees are solitary, live in wood or underground tunnels and do not make honey. The hard working females mate, make nests, collect pollen for their young and lay eggs. Males live to mate and only pollinate inadvertently when they visit flowers for nectar to fuel their flight. Native bees come in various shapes and sizes from the somewhat intimidating Valley carpenter bee at one inch long (sometimes more) to tiny sweat bees that are less than one quarter inch. They also vary in color, shape, markings on their faces and legs, distribution of hairs on their bodies and other features that may require a magnifying glass to be seen. Native bees differ in the seasons they appear, habitats they prefer, and flowers they favor.

Look for these bees and others in your outdoor spaces. They are all quite different from honey bees and each other.

Learn how to support our native bees with these 10 plants!

Click here to download a .pdf to get to know these 10 bees and 10 plants!

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