Ground Bees of Satwiwa


Ground Bees of Satwiwa (w/text info) - feat. Melibea from james carey on Vimeo.

Story about one of several species of Native Bees living in the Western Santa Monica Mountains of Southern California in the shadow of "Satwiwa", a beautiful set of bluffs held sacred but the Chumash First Nation Edlers.

Rewilding Your Land: Blessing of the Bees - Sam Droege - TEDx Washington Square

TEDx Talks     Sam Droege  

Sam Droege shares the magical world of native bee species, helping us understand the threats that face these unique populations and what we as humans can do to live more consciously and in harmony with these critical pollinators. 

SAM DROEGE is an author and biologist at the U.S. Geological Survey. He's an international expert on both birds and pollinator species. Sam has produced many grassroots programs: Bioblitz, Frogwatch USA, Cricket Crawl that enlist volunteers to inventory local flora and fauna. Currently he is developing an inventory and monitoring program for native bees, online identification guides for North American bees at, and with Jessica Zelt reviving the North American Bird Phenology Program.

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at

Native Bees Exposed to Pesticides Too

CATCH THE BUZZ   By Alan Harman  November 15, 2015

The first-ever study of pesticide residues on field-caught bees finds native bees are being exposed to neonicotinoid insecticides and other pesticides.

The research, conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey and published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, focused on native bees, because there is limited information on their exposure to pesticides. It did not look at pesticide exposure to honey bees.

The researchers say little is known about how toxic these pesticides are to native bee species at the levels detected in the environment.

“We found that the presence and proximity of nearby agricultural fields was an important factor resulting in the exposure of native bees to pesticides,” said USGS scientist Michelle Hladik, the report’s lead author.

“Pesticides were detected in the bees caught in grasslands with no known direct pesticide applications.”

Although conservation efforts have been shown by other investigators to benefit pollinators, this study raises questions about the potential for unintended pesticide exposures where various land uses overlap or are in proximity to one another.

The research involved collecting native bees from cultivated agricultural fields and grasslands in northeastern Colorado, then processing the composite bee samples to test for 122 different pesticides, as well as 14 chemicals formed by the breakdown of pesticides.

The scientists tested for the presence of pesticides both in and on the bees.

The most common pesticide detected was the neonicotinoid insecticide thiamethoxam, which was found in 46% of the composite bee samples. Thiamethoxam is used as a seed coating on a variety of different crops. Pesticides were not found in all bee samples, with 15 of the 54 total samples testing negative for the 122 chemicals examined.

Although the study did not investigate the effects of pesticide exposures to native bees, previous toxicological studies have shown that the chemicals do not have to kill the bees to have an adverse effect at the levels of exposure documented here.

For example, neonicotinoids can cause a reduction in population densities and reproductive success, and impair the bees’ ability to forage. Follow-up research is now being designed to further investigate adverse effects at these exposure levels.

There are about 4,000 native species of bees in the United States. They pollinate native plants such as cherries, blueberries and cranberries, and were here long before European honeybees were brought to the country by settlers.

In addition, many native bees are quite efficient crop pollinators, a role that may become more crucially important if honey bees continue to decline.

The researchers say their paper is a preliminary, field-based reconnaissance study that provides critical information necessary to design more focused research on exposure, uptake and accumulation of pesticides relative to land-use, agricultural practices and pollinator conservation efforts on the landscape.

Another USGS study published in August discovered neonicotinoids in in a little more than half of both urban and agricultural streams sampled across the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

“This foundational study is needed to prioritize and design new environmental exposure experiments on the potential for adverse impacts to terrestrial organisms,” says Mike Focazio, program coordinator for the USGS Toxic Substances Hydrology Program.

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Want to Help the Bee Populations? Grow a Variety of Flowers

Los Angeles Times  By THE TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD  June 15, 2015

Native bees, which don't swarm and are profilic pollinators, would thrive in the right habitat

The European honey bee was brought to this continent in the early 1600s, but not to pollinate crops. Rather, early settlers sought beeswax to make candles. Native bees, which are mostly solitary ground-dwellers, were effective pollinators but did not provide significant quantities of wax or honey.

It wasn't until the 1980s, when large-scale industrial farming began to replace family farming, that the honey bee became important to agriculture. Instead...

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Scientists Create a Hotel for Honey Bees to Help Stall Losses

NBC NEWS   May 29, 2015

More than two out of five honey bees in the U.S. died last year and the loss of native bees could be devastating.

Scott Campbell, an ecologist at Kansas University, “It would have major impacts on human beings and our abilities to grow enough food."

Unlike honey bees, which live in hives and were imported from Europe in the 1800s. Many native bees are solitary. Some think the bees are dying off because of habitat loss, so architects teamed up to build them a place to stay. A hotel - for bees.

Kay Johnson, an environment manager at Prosoco, says, “Bee hotels are to provide that habitat. So they're little tubes so that they can crawl in individually and do their work and live."

Steve Clark, of Clark-Huesemann Architecture, says, “You use a lot of standard building principles you actually use in buildings. You turn the building away from the storms, rain and prevailing winds. You turn it towards the sun so in the morning the bees warm up before they go out and do their work."

The bee hotel contains several holes - or rooms - with different diameters, each meant to house a different species of bee. The more bees that are saved, the more our plants thrive. Such as the wild blue indigo.

Campbell says, “If there were no bumble bees this plant would have a very hard time surviving."

Johnson adds, “If we can take care of these bees, we can have fruits and vegetables and tomatoes, even if there's problems with the honey bees."

There may be plenty of vacancy on this rainy day, but this bee hotel which opened May second, is expected to fill up by this summer.

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Here's the Buzz That Might Change How We Think

Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World   By Kathy Keatley Garvey    4/7/14

Talk about a good insurance policy.

Researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) just published an article in the Journal of Applied Ecology that indicates that blueberry growers who invest in nearby wildflower habitat to attract and support wild bees can increase their crop yields.  They're saying that the cost of planting a habitat for wild bees can pay for itself in four years or less.

"Other studies have demonstrated that creating flowering habitat will attract wild bees, and a few have shown that this can increase yields," MSU entomologist and co-author Rufus Isaacs said in a press release. "This is the first paper that demonstrates an economic advantage. This gives us a strong argument to present to farmers that this method works, and it puts money back in their pockets." 

"This is HUGE news," said pollination ecologist Neal Williams, associate professor of entomology at UC Davis, who was not involved in the study.  "This is the first study to quantify pollination benefit as a result of habitat planting adjacent crops.  It also works through the economics of the implementation of the the habitat and accrued economic and yield benefit over time.  Fantastic stuff."

This is right up Willilams' alley, er, hedge row. He and his colleagues are exploring the role of wild native bees, honey bees and other managed species as crop pollinators and the effects of landscape composition and local habitat quality on their persistence. His research on pollination spans the disciplines of conservation biology, behavioral ecology and evolution. One of his primary research foci is on sustainable pollination strategies for agriculture. This work is critical given ongoing pressures facing managed honey bees and reported declines in important native pollinators such as bumble bees. 

Williams' research has taken him from eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey to California's Central Valley.  "A continuing goal is to provide practical information that can be used to improve the long-term stability of pollination for agriculture in California, as well as promote pollinator conservation and management," Williams says.  In addition to work in agriculture, he is also studying how habitat restoration affects pollinator communities and pollination.  

Earlier California studies, involving Clare Kremen of UC Berkeley, Neal Williams and other colleagues, showed that wild bees make honey bees better pollinators; that is, the presence of wild bees makes the honey bees work harder.

Regarding the MSU study, the research team planted surrounding bueberry fields with a mix of 15 native perennial wildflowers, hoping to increase the wild bee population and thus improve pollination in the blueberry fields. 

And yes, that's exactly what happened. 

"In the first two years as the plantings established, we found little to no increase in the number of wild bees," Isaacs related in the press release  "After that, though, the number of wild bees was twice as high as those found in our control fields that had no habitat improvements."

To quote from the press release: "Once the wild bees were more abundant, more flowers turned into blueberries, and the blueberries had more seeds and were larger. Based on the results, a two-acre field planted with wildflowers adjacent to a 10-acre field of blueberries boosted yields by 10-20 percent. This translated into more revenue from the field, which can recoup the money from planting wildflowers."

Isaacs was quick to point out that the researchers are not suggesting that growers cease using honey bees for pollination services.  But with 420 species of wild bees in Michigan alone, he says, it makes sense to attract the "free" wild bees. Indeed, it does.

This study could have major implications for not only research in California, but nationwide.

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Mining for Bees!

Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World   By Kathy Keatley Garvey     4/1/14

Just call it "Mining for Bees."

It was not long after Robbin Thorp's talk on wild bees at the UC Davis Pollinator Gardening Workshop (hosted by the California Center for Urban Horticulture on March 15 at Giedt Hall), that lo and bee-hold: a mining bee appeared in our backyard.

From the family Andrenidae, it was foraging on the cherry laurels (Prunus caroliniana)Thorp, a native pollinator specialist and emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, identified the bee from photos as genus Andrena, probably Andrena cerasifolii.  "Note the pollen transport hairs on the hind legs," he said.

In his talk, Thorp mentioned that "there are more than 19,500 named bee species in the world, but more likely 20,000 to maybe 30,000." Of that number, North America has about 4500 bee species; California, 1600; and Yolo County, more than 300.

Indeed, Thorp has detected more than 80 bee species alone in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis (Yolo County). Planted in the fall of 2009, it's owned and maintained by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.

Here are a few bees you might want to pursue:
Andrenidae (mining bees)
Halictidae (sweat bees)
Colletidae (polyester and masked bees)
Megachilidae (leafcutting, carder and mason bees)
Apidae (digger, carpenter, cuckoo and honey bees)

We're looking forward to "California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists," to be published in the fall of 2014 by Heyday Press. It's the work of Gordon Frankie of UC Berkeley; Robbin Thorp of UC Davis; photographer Rollin Coville of the Bay Area; and Barbara Ertter of UC Berkeley. It will contain nearly 30 of the most common bee genera in California.

Frankie, Thorp, Coville and Ertter (and others) also published "Native Bees Are a Rich Natural Resource in Urban California Gardens" in California Agriculture.

Meanwhile, check out  the UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab website for interesting information on native bees. 

You, too, can attract them to your yard. As Thorp says: "Plant them and they will come. Provide habitat and they will stay and reproduce."

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Visit the Kathy Keatley Garvey Bug Squad blog at:

Lord of the Bees  Biology & Nature   By Kim McDonald    3/21/14

( —James Hung has collected more than 17,000 wild bees from coastal, desert and mountain areas of San Diego County. But many of his specimens bear little resemblance to the honey bees we normally think of as bees. To the casual observer, his bee collection looks more like a menagerie of Insects Gone Wild—gnat-sized bugs with long snouts, gigantic black bees and curious iridescent creatures with termite-like wings.


The Secret Life of Native Bees

Ensia   By Enrique Gili   12/19/13

The Secret Life of Native Bees

As colony collapse disorder takes its toll on honeybees, native bees draw attention as an insurance policy for future food security.

Over the last decade biologists, citizen scientists and others have fanned out across the United States and parts of Latin America to detect the presence of native bees in the landscape. It’s an effort by the U.S. Geological Survey to get a sense of the overall health and status of native bees, some 4,000 species of which are known to...


The Wild Ones   By  Enrique Gili   12/19/13

                   Photography by the USGS Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab Program

Established in 2004 by the U.S. Geological Survey, the Bee Monitoring and Inventory Lab and its director, Sam Droege, were tasked with creating long-range surveys of bee populations to determine whether native bees are in decline. “We’re lacking a lot of data,” Droege says. Determining the health and status of native bee populations, though, depends on the ability to identify them in the first place.

So Droege created a database that currently contains approximately 1,400 high-resolution images (though more are continually being added) of bees and other species they mix with in the wild that biologists, citizen scientists and others have sent the USGS. The images were made using a macro lens at the bee lab in Maryland, creating images remarkable in detail that are used in guides and for identification purposes.

To read more about the work of the Bee Monitoring and Inventory Lab and others, read “The Secret Life of Native Bees” at Ensia, and to see more images from the USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab database, go to Sam Droege’s Flickr page.

Related article and amazing pictures of bees at Artcentron.