American bumblebee side among petals 
 American bumblebee

Dr. Shalene Jha and Laurel Treviño (Outreach Program Coordinator) have developed educational material to identify and survey native bees. Educators or naturalists can use an array of information from the Jha Lab website that provides links to other websites with conservation guidelines for native pollinators.

What are pollinators?

Pollinators include a wide variety of organisms that carry and deposit pollen, including bees, flies, wasps, butterflies, hummingbirds, and bats. Bees are one of the most important insect pollinators, and beyond the introduced European honeybee, include 800+ native bee species in Texas alone (~20,000 species worldwide) which are adapted to the local climate, soils, and vegetation. Not all bees live in large colonies like honeybees. Most native bee species are solitary and make underground nests. A smaller portion make above-ground nests in existing cavities or they drill holes in soft wood or grass thatch.

What do they do?

If you step outside on a warm sunny day, chances are you might see pollinators, such as bees. In their journey to collect nectar and pollen, native bees often transfer pollen within and between plants, playing a key role in plant sexual reproduction.

What is their Impact?

By facilitating plant reproduction, bees play a critical role in terrestrial ecosystems. As a result of pollination, plants produce seed and continue their plant life cycle. Plant reproduction contributes to food sources for many other animal species. More than 80% of flowering plant species and approximately 60% of all crop species depend to some extent on animals, like native bees, for pollination.

 Tiny dark bees in Datura
 Look closely to see tiny dark bees on Datura anthers.

Helping native bees

Several things negatively affect bee populations, including loss of habitat, diseases, climate change and pesticides.

You can help save native bee populations!

1. Cultivate native flowering plants, which provide bees with their primary food source. Choose multiple plant species that flower across the season in order to maximize the food resources for bees that emerge and forage at different periods. An exhaustive list of pollinator plants and their natural history is found on the Lady Bird Johnson Wildlower Center, but three representative examples for pollinator gardens in Central Texas include the following:

Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) – aster family, spring and summer bloom
Lemon Mint or Bee Balm (Monarda citrioda) – mint family, summer bloom
Partridge Pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata) – legume family, summer and fall bloom

2. Conserve or create nesting and overwintering habitat for bees. This entails keeping patches of bare ground for ground-nesting bees and dead wood, grass thatch or bee boxes for cavity-nesting bees.

3. Maintain plants and nest sites in sunny areas sheltered from wind.

4. Avoid using pesticides. While these may destroy uwanted pests, they also kill beneficial insects like bees. [90% of insects ARE beneficial!]

5. Visit Dr. Shalene Jha's website to learn more about native bees. Their helpful guidelines about pollinators can also be downloaded here.

Megachile male grooms LaurelTrevino 
 Megachile male grooming.

Did you know?

1. Bees see in the visible as well as the ultraviolet light spectrum; while humans see only in the visible light spectrum.
2. Native bees can be as small as a rice grain or larger than almonds.
3. Of 20,000 native bee species in the world only six species actually produce honey.
4. Most bees forage during the day but some crepuscular or noctural bees can see in dim light.
5. Some native bees can fly for miles in a single day of foraging.
6. Most solitary bees roll pollen and nectar into balls called “bee loaves,” for their young to eat.

 

 

 

 

Visit Pollinators on Campus!

The Orchard and Pollinator Gardens on campus established by Landscape Services are located at at the northwest corner of San Jacinto Blvd and 24th Street. This garden attracts native bees, monarchs, and other pollinators. Visit the facebook page for the garden to learn more about it.

PollinatorsGarden 
 Photo: UT Facility Services, Orchard and Pollinator Garden.