Bee colonies are still struggling, but did you know that there are hundreds of native bee species in Florida? The European honey bee is an import, but native bees are also pollinators. Native bees are mostly solitary, living in a narrow nest either below ground or in wood cavities near the ground, and most of them don’t make any honey. They also differ from the honey bees in that native bees are often specific pollinators, attracted to particular plants which the bee needs for food and the plant needs for pollination. Although people are often fearful of the sting of bees, many of the native bees are often stingless or will only sting if annoyed or feel their lives are threatened. It is easy to create habitat to attract native bees and it requires little to no management once established if you wish to attract these native pollinators to your yard. Some common native bees you might see in your yard include: Bumble bees (Bombus spp.), Carpenter bees (Xylocopa spp.), Metallic Sweat Bees (Halictidae spp.), Leafcutter Bees (Megachile spp.) and Digger Bees (Andrena spp.).
You can encourage native bees to your yard by:
- Stopping use of insecticides
- Leaving bare soil in undisturbed areas so bees can dig their nests and tunnels
- Leaving some stumps and logs so the wood borers have a place to nest
- Plant native plants and nectar plants that bees love such as: saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), seagrape (Coccoloba uvifera), wild coffee (Psychotria nervosa), goldenrod (Solidago spp.), Walter’s Vibernum (Viburnum obovatum), Pennyroyal (Piloblephis rigida), Blazing Star (Liatris), Powderpuff (Mimosa strigillosa), Carolina wild petunia (Ruellia caroliniensis), tick-seed (Coreopsis spp.), and blanket flower (Gaillardia spp.).
- Building a bee house
- More research is underway to determine the best design and materials for native bee species in Florida.