Along with honeybees, native bees pollinate more than 30 percent of the foods we eat, helping plants produce their fruits and seeds. But while it takes 20,000 honeybees to pollinate an acre of apples, it only takes 250 native mason bees to do the same. Native bees are not only more effi cient than honeybees; they also work longer days and longer seasons.
With about 1,600 species of bees in California alone, native bees come in a variety of shapes and sizes. In general, they are attracted to blue, purple, yellow, and white flowers with an open-cup shape and aromatic fragrance, but just as bee species are diverse, so are the flowers they will visit. If you have a yard, balcony, or window box, an internet search for bee-friendly California native plants can give you ideas for plants to support native bees in your space.
Another way to help native bees at your home is to make a bee box for them. A bee box is a block of wood with different sized holes for them to nest in – almost like a tiny apartment building for these hard-working arthropods. You can find easy, fun ideas and instructions by doing a basic online search.
In case you are worried about bringing bees to your yard, let’s squash their bad reputation. Bees are not going to chase you down and sting you. They are not aggressive and only sting to protect themselves or their homes. In fact, most native bees have stingers that can’t pierce human skin, and male bees don’t have stingers at all.
So help us give them – and us – a legup (or six!) by creating bee habitats throughout our community to keep them buzzing!