Are honey bees native to North America?

Honey bees are not native to North America. They were originally imported from Europe in the 17th century. Honey bees now help pollinate many U.S. crops like fruits and nuts. In a single year, one honey bee colony can gather about 40 pounds of pollen and 265 pounds of nectar. Honey bees increase our nation's crop values each year by more than 15 billion dollars.

Critical honey bee populations in the United States have been declining in recent years due to many factors, creating concern about the future security of pollination services in the United States. USGS researchers are looking into the effects of factors like land use change and chemical use on honey bee habitat to better understand how to conserve bees on the landscape.

While important in the pollination of some crops, honey bees are also significant competitors of native bees and should not be introduced in conservation areas, parks, or areas where you want to foster the conservation of native plants and native bees.

Learn more: Honey Bee Helpers: It Takes a Village to Conserve a Colony

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Does the loss of plant diversity affect the health of native bees?

Loss of plant diversity is the primary cause of native bee decline. About 30-50% of all native bees are highly specialized, so if the plant they rely on disappears, the bees go away. If the bees disappear, the plant is unable to reproduce and dies out. While some of the plants pollinated by native bees are important food crops, other plants...

Do bees feed on both nectar and pollen?

Bees feed on and require both nectar and pollen. The nectar is for energy and the pollen provides protein and other nutrients. Most pollen is used by bees as larvae food, but bees also transfer it from plant-to-plant, providing the pollination services needed by plants and nature as a whole. Learn more: USGS Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring...

How many species of native bees are in the United States?

There are over 20,000 known bee species in the world, and 4,000 of them are native to the United States. They range from the tiny (2 mm) and solitary Perdita minima , known as the world’s smallest bee, to kumquat-sized species of carpenter bees . Our bees come in as many sizes, shapes, and colors as the flowers they pollinate. There is still much...

Do native bees occur on every continent on the planet?

Native bees occur on every continent except Antarctica. Wherever there are insect-pollinated flowering plants—be it in forest, farms, cities, and wildlands—there are bees. And just because you don’t see obvious blooming plants, that does not mean that there are no bees around. Look down! Those tiny flowers that you see on some plants are also...

What is the role of native bees in the United States?

About 75% of North American plant species require an insect—mostly bees—to move their pollen from one plant to another to effect pollination. Unlike the well-known behavior of the non-native honeybees, there is much that we don’t know about native bees. Many native bees are smaller in size than a grain of rice. Of approximately 4,000 native bee...

Why are pollinating bats, birds, bees, butterflies, and other animals important?

Do you enjoy a hot cup of coffee, a juicy peach, an-apple-a-day, almonds, rich and creamy dates, a handful of plump cashews, or vine-ripened tomatoes? Do you enjoy seeing the native flowers and plants that surround you? If so, you depend on pollinators. Wherever flowering plants flourish, pollinating bees, birds, butterflies, bats and other...

Why are bats important?

By eating insects, bats save U.S. agriculture billions of dollars per year in pest control. Some studies have estimated that service to be worth over $3.7 billion per year, and possibly as much as $53 billion. This value does not, however, take into account the volume of insects eaten by bats in forest ecosystems and the degree to which that...
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Date published: June 21, 2021

It’s Pollinator Week!

Pollinators in the form of bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles provide vital but often invisible services, from supporting terrestrial wildlife and plant communities, to supporting healthy watersheds.

Date published: June 20, 2019

Honey Bee Helpers: It Takes a Village to Conserve a Colony

Do you eat fruits and vegetables? What about nuts? If so, you can thank an insect pollinator, usually a honey bee. These small insects play a major role in pollinating the world’s plants, including those we eat regularly. They also increase our nation’s crop values each year by more than 15 billion dollars.

Date published: May 23, 2016

No Junk-Food Diet for Urban Honey Bees

New research from Southeast Climate Science Center supported researchers finds that honey bees in urban areas stick to a flower-nectar diet, steering clear of processed sugars found in soda and other junk food.

Date published: November 4, 2015

Urban Environments Boost Pathogen Pressure on Honey Bees

Researchers from North Carolina State University have found that urban environments increase pathogen abundance in honey bees (Apis mellifera) and reduce honey bee survival.

Date published: May 19, 2015

Pollinators Get a National Strategy to Restore Their Health

Small bees that don’t bother or sting us can remain unstudied despite their abundance. 

Filter Total Items: 13
Outstanding in the field podcast album art
December 10, 2018

Outstanding in the Field (Ep 1): To Bee or Not to Bee

The USGS Ecosystems Mission Area brings you Outstanding in the Field, a series of stories about our science, our adventures, and our efforts to better understand our fish and wildlife and the ecosystems that support them. This episode's buzz is all about pollinators, the birds, bees, bats, beetles, and other animals that feed on pollen from plants and help bring about one

Honey bee (Apis mellifera) foraging on coffee flowers of Coffea canephora and C. arabica plants
April 6, 2017

Honey bee pollination of coffee plants

Researcher swabs the body of a honeybee with fuschin gel to later use to identify the pollen particles on the bee's body and determine what plants the bee visited. The overal purpose of the project is to enable the Department of Applied Ecology of North Carolina State University (NCSU), Center for Landscape Conservation (CLC), and the Natural Resources Conservation Service

...
April 28, 2016

Untapped Capacity: Our 4,000 Species of Native Bees

So many unknowns and so many potentials.

  • In secret, Native Bees, not honey bees, do most of our pollinating
  • Why we don't know the status of 99% of our Native Bees
  • Why are there 400 Native Bees without names
  • Why biodiverse native plant communities = biodiverse native bee communities
Honey Bees are Valuable Pollinators
April 26, 2016

Honey Bees are Valuable Pollinators

Honey bees play a major role in pollinating the world’s plants, including those we eat regularly. However, land-use changes that decrease flower abundance can affect bee health and pollination services. Midwestern states are losing crucial native grasslands and conservation lands that have historically provided abundant flowers for honey bees and native pollinators.

January 8, 2016

USGS Pollinator Research and Monitoring

The USGS Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, located in the Northern Great Plains state of North Dakota highlights their current and ongoing research on land use and pollinator health.

This part of the country represents critical summer forage habitat for commercial beekeepers and their honey bees. Colonies located here in the summer produce honey and go on

Photo of honey bee laden with pollen
June 18, 2015

Honey bee laden with pollen

Honey bee laden with pollen.  Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center has developed a genetic sequencing strategy to identify bee-collected pollen. 

Image:  A Beekeeper's Toolbox
July 31, 2014

A Beekeeper's Toolbox

The USGS Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center partners with professional beekeepers in North Dakota to evaluate what plant species honey bees forage on and when. 

Society needs healthy bees and other insects to pollinate crops, but land use changes that decrease flower abundance can affect bee health and pollination services. Midwestern states are losing native

...
USGS CoreCast
June 24, 2009

Bees Are Not Optional

It's Pollinator Week, and we're talking to USGS scientist Sam Droege about the tremendous importance of native bees and pollinators in general, and how you can lend a hand to these tiny titans.  
 
Like eating fresh fruits and vegetables? Think agriculture is important to our society? Then you'll want to pay attention to this CoreCast. (original recording: June

Image: Honey Bees Make Life Sweet

Honey Bees Make Life Sweet

Honey bees live and work in highly collaborative, social colonies with a sole reproducing queen, and they make honey by storing nectar from flowering plants in their hives for use during food scarcities.

Attribution: Ecosystems
Image: Honey Bees are Valuable Pollinators

Honey Bees are Valuable Pollinators

Honey bees play a major role in pollinating the world’s plants, including those we eat regularly. However, land-use changes that decrease flower abundance can affect bee health and pollination services. Midwestern states are losing crucial native grasslands and conservation lands that have historically provided abundant flowers for honey bees and native pollinators.

Attribution: Ecosystems
Image: Honey Bees are Valuable Pollinators

Honey Bees are Valuable Pollinators

Honey bees play a major role in pollinating the world’s plants, including those we eat regularly. However, land-use changes that decrease flower abundance can affect bee health and pollination services. Midwestern states are losing crucial native grasslands and conservation lands that have historically provided abundant flowers for honey bees and native pollinators.

Attribution: Ecosystems
Image: Honey Bees are Valuable Pollinators

Honey Bees are Valuable Pollinators

Honey bees play a major role in pollinating the world’s plants, including those we eat regularly. However, land-use changes that decrease flower abundance can affect bee health and pollination services. Midwestern states are losing crucial native grasslands and conservation lands that have historically provided abundant flowers for honey bees and native pollinators.

Attribution: Ecosystems