Texas Bumblebees (podcast)Apr 20th, 2012 | By Cecilia | Category: Featured Articles, podcast, the show
Honeybees get all the Buzz, but Texas Bumblebees are Critical for a Healthy Ecosystem
European honeybees are one of the most recognized insects in the world; their pollination prowess contributes to our agricultural and backyard vegetable garden, success…but they’re not doing the heavy lifting alone.
And if we’re being honest, honeybees are not the be all end all pollinators we’ve been lead to believe. They just have a great PR team.
(Oh no she di’int.)
Originally from Europe and North Africa, the insects arrived on our shores in the 1600s with the first colonists, and have spread across the country and into central and south America.
In 2006 reports of colony collapse disorder started making headlines. It’s a phenomenon whereby healthy honeybee colonies abandon their hives never to return. We’ve been looking for answers and ways to reverse the trend ever since, yet in our fervor to save this imported species, we’ve neglected our native species.
Yes, we have native bees! Who knew, right?
“Native bee species like bumblebees and solitary bees are also in trouble, but nobody knows about it,” Michael Warriner tells me. He’s an invertebrate biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife, and also curates the website www.texasbumblebees.com.
Warriner says about 50 species of the “furry” black and yellow bumblebees are native to the US, and Texas is home to nine of them.
Effective pollination of plants is critical for the survival of many species–including humans. While honeybees get all the press and credit for our country’s agricultural and backyard food garden success, if bumblebees and other native bee species were removed from the pollination equation, we’d be in bad shape.
Michael says native bumblebees are much more effective pollinators of native plant species, as well as many food crops such as tomatoes, blueberries, cranberries and melons to name a few. In fact they are much better pollinators of these crops than the beloved honeybee. Listen to the podcast with Michael Warriner to hear him explain “buzz pollination” employed by native bumblebees and solitary bees.
So effective are bumblebees at pollinating tomatoes that in Europe and the US, greenhouse growers use insects in their operations. The end result is more and bigger tomatoes, “and happier tomato loving consumers.”
Go local. Go native. Go Bumblebees!