Why are bees important?

There are nearly 20,000 known bee species in the world, and 4,000 of them are native to the United States (an estimated 400 additional native bee species remain to be identified in the U.S.). From the tiny and solitary Perdita minima, known as the world’s smallest bee, to the large carpenter bee, to the brilliant blue of the mason bee; native bees come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors.

Native bees pollinate native plants like cherries, blueberries, and cranberries, and were here long before European honeybees were brought to the country by settlers (honeybees are not native to North America). Honeybees, of course, are well known for pollinating almond and lemon trees, okra, papaya and watermelon plants. But native bees like the blue orchard bees are better and more efficient pollinators of native crops. Native bees are estimated to pollinate 80 percent of flowering plants around the world.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), bees of all sorts pollinate approximately 75 percent of the fruits, nuts and vegetables grown in the United States, and one out of every four bites of food people take is courtesy of bee pollination. In sum, bee pollination is responsible for more than $15 billion in increased crop value each year.

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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...

How can I find the scientific names of plants and animals?

Finding the scientific name requires detective work, because there can be multiple common names that can vary geographically, and similar common names can refer to a variety of organisms. A good starting point is the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), a database of scientific and common names and broad taxonomic categories.

Why do animals and plants become endangered?

Generally speaking, endangered species are those animals and plants that are in decline and may be in danger of extinction. A threatened species is one that is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future.
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Date published: June 22, 2020

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: January 23, 2017

How the Bees You Know are Killing the Bees You Don’t

Patuxent Scientist Sam Droege interviewed for "Inside Science" about how commercially managed bumblebees and honey bees may be contributing to wild pollinator decline. 

Date published: September 7, 2016

Busy as Bees to Help Protect Pollinators

 By Elizabeth Jacobsen 

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. 

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February 28, 2018

Bee Laboratory (Instagram Story)

Instagram story showing the USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab clearing invasive species from a field.

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
Native Mojave bee
April 14, 2016

Native Mojave Bee Sleeping in Cactus Flower

Native bee sleeping in cactus flower, Mojave Desert, NV.

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. 

Macrophotograph of the backend of a plain sweat bee
November 2, 2014

Bee Butt

This is the backend of a Lipotriches (Plain Sweat Bee) collected in Australia. This is one of the bees in which the males are known to form sleeping aggregations – small groups to dozens of individuals clustering together on the same twig late in the afternoon and remaining there until after dawn. There may be quite a lot of “jockeying for position” as males alight too

Attribution: Ecosystems
Image: Agapostemon Splendens Sweat Bee
June 25, 2009

Agapostemon Splendens "Sweat Bee"

A male Agapostomen splendens: A bee of sandy areas also known as the "sweat bee."

Attribution: Ecosystems
A bee with pollen on it
November 30, 2000

A bee with pollen on it

A bee with pollen on it. Photo by Sam Droege, USGS. 

This photo is a head on image of a Bombus griseocollis queen bee.
November 30, 2000

Bombus griseocollis queen bee

A Bombus griseocollis queen. Photo by Sam Droege, USGS. 

Tomato-colored Bee, Edwyniana species

Tomato-colored Bee

Edwyniana species - An inhabitat of the southern edge of the Atacama Desert in Chile

Black-winged Cuckoo Orchid Bee, Exaerete frontalis

Black-winged Cuckoo Orchid Bee

Exaerete frontalis -  Metallic as any sports car, this bee is from the jungles of Guyana where it lays its eggs in the nests of other orchid bees