By PATRICIA SIMPSON
It’s the little things in life. Did you know that San Diego County is a biodiversity hot spot for our small pollinator friends? There are now around 700 native bee species that have been recorded here. That is an impressive number. Among these are mining bees in the genus Andrena, ranging in size from 8 millimeters to just about the size of a honey bee as seen in the observation at bit.ly/314Jt2p.
Even though mining bees are fairly common, they often go unnoticed due to their smaller size and darker bodies. Like most native bees, they are mostly solitary, nesting in ground burrows. Females will section off cells underground and deposit an egg on a pollen/nectar ball in each chamber. When the egg hatches, the larva will consume its meal and pupate for the rest of the winter, then emerge as an adult in the spring. The new adult will feed, find a mate, and repeat the process to ensure future generations.
As with other ground dwellers, mining bees are sensitive to soil disturbances, making urban areas and heavily tended gardens poor habitat. Places like Mission Trails Regional Park are great safe zones for them.
But another less popular threat might be looming for the future of our incredibly diverse native bee population. A new study by Keng-Lou James Hung and his colleagues from UCSD’s Division of Biological Sciences has found that local blooms are overwhelmed by the non-native European honey bee (Apis mellifera). On average in San Diego County, honey bees are a stunning 75% of all pollinators observed and, in some instances, that number surges to 90%. This might be cause for concern as honey bees are very efficient about collecting pollen and hence removing a large amount of food and harvest for our native pollinators. To learn more about this new study, visit bit.ly/2WHE0zh.
To learn more about responsible apiculture near wildlife sanctuaries, please visit honeybeesuite.com.
— Patricia Simpson is Mission Trails Regional Park trail guide.