On your path to nature, what did you fall in love with first? It probably wasn’t bees, was it? We grow up from childhood with a healthy respect for creatures that can pack a powerful sting. The one I remember first was during 3rd grade recess – a honeybee in a patch of blooming clover. Today I look for bees in my garden because they are a sign of a working ecosystem, and they are always welcome here.
|Southeastern blueberry bee|
How did she do? The book is amazingly detailed and so full of information that my expectations have been exceeded. Chapter 1 sets the stage for detail with 30 pages of background on bees: life cycle, anatomy, nesting, their relationship with flowers, and the latest issues that impact bees. All of it is beautifully illustrated with close-up photos. This section closes with a 4-page spread that illustrates key characteristics “at a glance.” I love the pictorial illustrations that highlight the sizes; they really help me envision one bee relative to others.
Chapters 2 through 6 get up close and personal with bee families: Colletidae, Andrenidae, Halictidae, Megachilidae, and Apidae. Each family is divided into several genera. I didn’t know that the Apidae family included the European honeybee as well as the native bumblebees (plus several others). Profiles vary in size but each includes basic information: size, months of activity, presence in the Eastern US, how they collect pollen (if applicable), nest details, life cycle, and common forage plants. Each profile has numerous photos of the bee, often both male and female.
|Monarda punctata stems|
Here’s an example of what they need: in spring of 2017, cut the old stems of 2016 to 15 inches. Bees will lay eggs in them during the spring. Leave those stems in place all during 2017; the new foliage will grow up around them. In spring 2018, new bees will emerge from them and then the stems will start to naturally break down. You don’t need to remove them. Repeat this every year. You could also cut some stems and stick them in other areas or in pots so that they are available to bees elsewhere. I did that with some super long stems from tall meadow rue (Thalictrum pubescens).
Chapters 7-10 cover native plants that are good for bee forage: Large Trees, Small Trees & Large Shrubs, Small Shrubs, and Annuals/Biennials/Perennials. Heather’s love of native plants really shines in these chapters. Plant profiles include flowering time, distribution, habitat, what bees use them as well as helpful symbols to indicate if they support other insects, birds, or are larval host plants. Just like the bee profiles, each one is packed with information.
|Example of a plant profile, Geranium maculatum is native to Georgia|
|A Colletes bee from 2014|