For many of us, the bees that are heading out of our backyard gardens and into hibernation this fall are relatively indistinguishable from one another. But in fact there are roughly 4,000 different bee species found in the United States and Canada alone. With over 900 stunning photos, The Bees in Your Backyard provides an engaging introduction to all of these. Curious about which ones you’ve probably been missing? The authors, Joe Wilson and Olivia Messinger Carril, put together this handy list of the “backyard bees” many people have never heard of. –PUP blog editor
1. Long-horned bees (Eucerini)
All bees feed their offspring pollen and nectar. Many long-horned bees are specialists, a nice way of saying ‘picky’; females only collect pollen for their young from specific kinds of flowers, even when other ones may be available. Many of them prefer flowers in the sunflower family.
2. Mason bees (Osmia)
We rely on honey bees for the pollination of many of our tastiest fruits. Some mason bee species can be effective pollinators of orchard crops, and research has shown that they are often better pollinators than the honey bee.
3. Leaf cutter bees (Megachile)
As their common name suggests, leaf cutter bees use their incredible mandibles to cut out circular pieces of leaves that they carry back to their nests. These leaf pieces are used to line the walls of the nest cells like wallpaper.
4. Small mining bees (Perdita)
5. Metallic green sweat bees (Agapostemon, Augochlorini)
While most bees in North America are solitary and don’t live in hives with a queen and workers, there are a few species green sweat bee that are partially social. They are solitary at the beginning of the season, but social by the end of the season.
6. Mining bees (Andrena)
All mining bees nest in the ground (as, in fact, do most bees in the U.S. and Canada), in tunnels each female digs herself. The deepest bee nest that has been excavated in North America was a mining bee nest and it was over nine feet deep.
7. Sweat bees (Lasioglossum)
Sweat bees, particularly those in the subgenus Dialictus, are often the most abundant bee in people’s backyards, and probably anywhere else one looks for bees. Though nondescript, they are ubiquitous.
8. Masked bees (Hylaeus)
Masked bees are often mistaken for wasps because they are nearly hairless. These bees are the only North American bees that don’t carry pollen on the outside of their bodies. Instead they ingest the pollen, storing it in a crop. When they return to their nest, they regurgitate it.
9. Carpenter bees (Xylocopa)
Carpenter bees are among the biggest bees in North America. They are also one our only bees capable of chewing into wood to construct their nests; most other bees use pre-existing tunnels, made by beetles, other insects, or helpful humans.
10. Cellophane bees (Colletes)
How many of these have you seen in your backyard? Check out the book’s introduction here.