here for the latest taxonomic breakdown of global bee diversity
Around the world, bees are the world's champion pollinators carrying and delivering more pollen grains to and from flowering plants than any other group of animals. Bees fit just right into flowers and have the know-how to find the nectar and carry away large amounts of pollen. The pollination of flowers is a “lucky accident” that happens when bees and other animals accidentally brush against the stgmas leaving pollen grains behind that will send down pollen tubes fertilizing the ovules that will become the seeds in your bright red apple, orange or other fruits.
Bees have just the right tools for the job at hand. Steve has called
bees “living Swiss Army Knives” because they have tools on their legs and
mouthparts to help them collect floral rewards. Their hind legs are fuzzy
with branched hairs to help hold and transport the pollen back to
their nests. Some bees even have specialized pollen combs and
Bees need to collect lots of pollen to feed their young and ingest some
themselves. Most bees in the world are solitary ground-nesters, although
some choose to live in dead wood or dried pithy stems. A typical female
bee (only females collect pollen/nectar to feed their young and the
females capable of stinging when their lives are threatened) makes dozens
of trips to collect enough pollen and nectar to provision a cell. The cells
are polished urn-shaped cavities in the soil off lateral burrows in a nest
that the female excavates. Female bees mix the pollen and nectar
into a PlayDough-like consistency. It is usually worked into a pea-sized
ball in the bottom of the cell. An egg is laid on the pollen ball and the
lid of the cell sealed with a spiral closure or mud, wax or resin. This
Bees belong to the large insect order Hymenoptera, along with ants and wasps. The name for the order refers to the membranous often clear wings, two fore and two hind wings, these flying insects possess. The group is often referred to as the aculeates, a reference to the aculeus or sting, which female ants, bees and wasps use for defense or to paralyse prey insects (only wasps). Bees are extremely varied. They range in size from the world’s smallest bee (Perdita minima, only 2mm long in the desert around Tucson) and Wallace’s lost bee, Chalicodoma pluto,about 40mm long) which lives inside termite nests in forests on the Molucca’s Islands. The little Perdita could sit on the antennae of one of our giant black carpenter bees. They make their living by collecting pollen and nectar from flowers and by excavating nests in the ground or wood, or by finding pre-existing tunnels like beetle burrows in dead trees. Some bees also collect mud, leaves, plant hairs, resins, pebbles or bark for use as building materialsin their often elaborate nests.
Today, scientists have discovered, described and formally named (using the scientific nomenclature in Latin or Greek for the genus and species) 25,000 different kinds (scientists call them species) of bees around the world. In the United States alone, we have 3,950 species of native bees. More are being described each year. Steve Buchmann estimates that there may be as many as 30,000 to 40,000 species worldwide. If you make careful studies around your home or nearby wildland sites, maybe you will be the next to discover a new species.
Most of these are the invertebrate groups of insects already familiar to you (bees, beetles, butterflies, flies, moths and wasps). Among the animals with backbones, only the birds (hummingbirds in the New World and sunbirds and others in the Old World), bats and some marsupials are routinely engaged in flower-visiting. Examples of bat-pollinated plants include the familiar century plant and the icon of western movies, the saguaro. For a complete list of these animals, click here to read the “Redbook” produced by Gary Nabhan of the Forgotten Pollinators Campaign.
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