Honeybees are not native bees, surprised?

“I think a lot of people will be surprised to hear honeybees are not native to North or South America; we brought them here for honey production and to pollinate some of our plant species.”

(Six ways honeybees differ from native bees)

Bryanna Kuhlman, environmental education coordinator for the Dickinson County Conservation Board, will talk about bees that are native to the U.S. and Iowa during the next Pollinator Education series program 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 26, at the Dickinson County Nature Center in Okoboji.

“I’m going to focus on native bees, so honeybees will not be part of this conversation,” Kuhlman said.

Iowa has 298 listed species of native bees, although most have not been studied before and the state list is currently being worked on. Many insects are overlooked because they aren’t as charismatic as other creatures, but as bee populations dwindle, people are starting to realize how important these pollinators are.

(Read about neonictinoids and bees)

Sweat bees, carpenter bees, digger bees, bumblebees — there are so many species of bees to cover, but Kuhlman said her favorite is probably the rusty-patched bumblebee, which was placed on the endangered species list in 2017.

She will also talk about why native bees are important to pollination. For instance, bumblebees do something called buzz pollination, which some plants — blueberries and tomatoes, in particular — are reliant upon. Honeybees are not strong enough to get the pollen out of some flowers like native bees can.

“They’re one of our best pollinators, and they’re also situated better to pollinate our native plants,” Kuhlman said. “A lot of our native plants need pollinators to survive.”

Photo of carpenter bee

The 45-minute program will also go over the solitary behavior of native bees, nesting in cavities or in the ground and not in hives like honeybees.

“I’ll also talk about how you can become beesponsible,” Kuhlman said.

Learn ways to reduce pesticide use, the importance of leaving messy gardens, why it’s good to do fall clean-up in the spring and how planting native plants can also help bee populations.

“The Pollinator Education Series has gone over well. We started with native butterflies, and people really seem to enjoy learning about butterflies, I’ve found, in Dickinson County,” Kuhlman said. “Then we moved into pollinator gardens and why these are important to establish in your community. Now, I’m excited to teach people about the native bees in Iowa, because the knowledge about native bees is lacking.”

The Dickinson County Nature Center also has a new addition focusing on native bees and other pollinators called Pollinator Paradise. Exhibits are being added and fundraising is ongoing for new exhibits for this space, which will feature children’s museum-quality exhibits all about pollinators and how we can help them.

Find out more about free programming at the Dickinson County Nature Center and the new Pollinator Paradise addition, including how you can donate to the project, at www.dickinsoncountyconservationboard.com. You can also keep up on the latest happenings on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


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