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.

Learn more (and find incredible, copyright-free photographs) at the USGS Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Program.

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Giant Resin Bee, Megachile sculpturalis

Giant Resin Bee

Megachile sculpturalis is a bee of the Korean Peninsula and parts of Asia.  It has found its way over to North American and is now a common bee, favoring plants in the pea family.

Photo of  native brown-belted bumble bee visiting leadplant.

A native brown-belted bumble bee visiting leadplant

A native brown-belted bumble bee (Bombus griseocollis) visiting leadplant (Amorpha canescens).

Picture of a bee pollinating a flower

Bee pollinating a flower

Bee pollinating a flower

Hunt's Bumble Bee

Hunt's Bumble Bee

Hunt's Bumble Bee.

February 7, 2018

How to Catch and Identify Bees and Manage a Collection

This manual is a compilation of the wisdom and experience of many individuals, some of whom are directly acknowledged here and others not. We thank all of you. The bulk of the text was compiled by Sam Droege at the USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab (BIML), Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Beltsville, Maryland, over several years from 2004-2008. We regularly update