An Introduction to the Diverse World of Bees

An Introduction to the Diverse World of Bees

by Adèle Grenouilleau
Project Coordinator Bee City Canada - Pollinator Partnership Canada

The denéva skincare Bee Protection Foundation has partnered with the Pollinator Partnership Canada and are helping to study and restore natural pollinator habitats.   

The honey bee, or Apis mellifera, is undoubtedly the most familiar bee to the general public, probably because it produces the famous honey we love so much. However, honey bees are not native to Canada and were imported from Europe almost 400 years ago and continue to be managed for honey production and pollination services. Our planet is home to many more bees than the honey bee! To date, over 20,000 species have been observed across continents, aside from Antarctica.

These 20,000 species are divided into seven distinct families, including Andredinae, Apidae, Colletidae, Halictidae, Megachilidae, Melittidae and Stenotritidae. Each species has its own distinctive characteristics, colors, and sizes while sharing a common evolutionary history. Wallace's bee, found in Indonesia, for example, measures 39 mm in length and 63 mm in wingspan - about the size of a human thumb! Comparatively, Perdita minima is less than two millimeters long! There is an incredible amount of diversity within the world of bees!

In contrast to honey bees, not all live in bustling hives. It is estimated that 70% of bee species nest underground and many live in wood, mud, or trees. Ninety percent live solitary lives, with the remaining 10% either forming colonies or nesting in groups. In Canada, there are over 800 species of native ground and twig nesting bees.

As far as pollination is concerned, bees are the most efficient animal group. The reason for this? Their bodies are perfectly suited for pollination, as their hairs attract pollen grains from flowers. There are hundreds of thousands of flowering plants around the world that are pollinated by bees. Bees pollinate many of the foods that make our diets diverse and enjoyable, including blueberries, almonds, pumpkins, and even coffee!

Sadly, bee populations around the world are declining at an unprecedented rate. Several factors are contributing to this decline, including the loss in feeding and nesting habitats, climate change, pollution, the misuse of chemicals, parasites, and other diseases. It is important to note, however, that there can be instances where the data isn't enough to gauge a response, which is even more concerning.

Every individual can do their part to help bee populations in Canada and around the world. Pollinators need food and shelter, so it is most important to create habitat by choosing and planting plants that are native to your region; if you are interested in finding out which plants are native to your region, check out Pollinator Partnership Canada’s Find Your Roots tool. Additionally, it's a good idea to create nesting areas, to minimize pesticide use, and to discuss the importance of bees with those around you.

Bee City Canada is a Pollinator Partnership Program. To donate to this initiative, please click or tap the donate button below
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