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 pollinated by native bees are critical for healthy forests, wildlife, and watersheds.

Learn more: 

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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...

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...

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 17, 2019

Test your bee and other pollinator knowledge!

It’s pollinator week and USGS is providing science to better understand the status of pollinator species. Here’s the chance to test your knowledge about bees and other pollinators, with our pollinator week quiz!  And let us know on FB or Twitter how you did!

Attribution: Ecosystems
Date published: June 18, 2018

It’s National Pollinator Week! Get the buzz on USGS pollinator research

Bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles provide vital but often invisible pollination services that support terrestrial wildlife and plant communities, and healthy watersheds.

Attribution: Ecosystems
Date published: October 12, 2017

Pesticides, Pollinators, and Pestilence: Protecting Public Health and Pollinators

Tick and mosquito control provides important public health protection, but can also affect pollinator populations. The effects are often dependent on specific local conditions, such as how close the pesticide application is to places pollinators frequent, and when they frequent them.  

Date published: June 15, 2015

The Buzz on Native Bees

Bees are nearly ubiquitous, occurring on every continent except Antarctica. Wherever there are insect-pollinated flowering plants — forest, farms, cities and wildlands — there are bees. And just because you don’t see plants blooming, does not mean that there are no bees around. 

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. 

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Great Sand Dunes National Park
March 20, 2020

Great Sand Dunes National Park with wildflowers in the foreground

Photo of Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve with wildflowers in the foreground and the dunes in the background

A dense field of wildflowers with coastal hills and the ocean in the background
April 6, 2019

Wildflowers in the Channel Islands

Spring wildflowers captured on California's Channel Islands.

The USGS Western Ecological Research Center's Dr. Kathryn McEachern studies plant ecology and restoration on the Channel Islands. Learn more here.

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

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
Sonoran desert spring wildflower display.
March 31, 2016

Sonoran Desert Wildflowers and Invasive Species

Ecosystems are changing at a rapid pace. It can be difficult to determine if a landscape is in need of restoration. In this photo of the spring wildflower bloom in the Sonoran desert, an invasive annual grass, Bromus rubens (red brome), is pervasive. Land managers have to make decisions about when, where, and how to intervene in a system. Does this grass pose a threat to

February 23, 2016

Wildflower meadow - WARC

Wildflower meadow - WARC

blooming field of yellow and purple wildflowers in the Borrego Valley
December 12, 2013

Borrego Valley Wildflower Field


WERC Great Basin Wildflowers
July 16, 2011

WERC Great Basin Wildflowers

Colorful wildflowers in the Great Basin.

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

Conservation seed wildflowers in South Dakota

Conservation seed wildflowers in South Dakota

Conservation seed wildflowers in South Dakota. 

Wildflower Superbloom

Wildflower Superbloom

The wildflower "super-bloom" of 2016 was a rare event for Death Valley that occurs only when enough precipitation allows a massive amount of wildflower seeds to flourish.