Fun fact: Native bees do much better at pollinating crops like blueberries, cherries, and cranberries than honeybees.
The very, very cool, and publicly accessible key for accessing bee identification processes is here. This is what I used in the USDA’s Native Bee Identification Workshop that I attended. A number of citizen science initiatives are going on which aim to direct research and broader information-sharing around all things pollinators. Their system is incredibly refined for identifying the thousands of native bee species that are out there.
After many hours counting the segments in bee antennae (to differentiate males from females), examining femurs, and oh so much more, I’ve decided I’m glad I’m a social scientist instead of a natural scientist. And, I’ve learned a lot about the process of bee identification, even if my day-long foray did not result in a lot of immediately useful knowledge. But! I know where to look now, and how to go about identifying a bee if I want to let my inner citizen scientist flourish.
The basics on how important native bees are to our ecosystems can be found in this nicely illustrated booklet.
The Pollinator Protection site, run through the EPA, has excellent reporting, grants, and science developing through governmental networks in partnership with university researchers. Meanwhile, an NGO called the Pollinator Partnership is also doing national-level advocacy and organizing to protect pollinators, and has toolkits as well as plenty of political action resources.
Here is a simple and easily readable discussion of the importance of forage areas for native bees to the importance of native bees as pollinators. Once I get familiarity with these 18 common native bees, I’ll dig in to the other couple of thousand varieties…