Utah's Native Bees Are Diverse In Traits And Species

Jan 11, 2018

In a recent survey at Utah State University, 99 percent of people described bees as either critical or important. The pollination services provided by bees are crucial for the survival of entire ecosystems. 

People widely recognize how important pollination is. Despite this, the survey found that while people are interested in conserving bees, they can’t recognize non-honeybees, and they don’t know how many species exist in the US.

How can we conserve what we don’t know?

Bee expert Skyler Burrows of USU’s Biology Department isn’t surprised by the survey results.

“I don’t think we were ever told what a bee was growing up. I just wonder what I even thought they were before, because in my head these things didn’t even exist,” Burrows said.

Wild bees aren’t just black and yellow. They can be blue, black or metallic green. Bees don’t only make hives: they burrow in the ground, drill into wood, or nest in hollow stems. They vary widely in size from a bee as small as a gnat, to one as big as a quarter.

There are approximately 4,000 known species of bees in the United States. Utah is unique in terms of bee biodiversity, with about one quarter of the known species in the U.S. present.

“We have about as many species in Escalante – which just got cut drastically – as we do in the entire eastern U.S.,” Burrows said.

To help Utah’s bee population, USU bee experts suggested planting a wide variety of native plants to provide nectar and pollen for native bees. Leaving parts of the yard bare can also protect important nesting sites for wild bees.