Our Native Flying ‘Cheetos’: Bee Basics from the USDA Forest Service

001-000-04765-5“The world as we know it would not exist if there were no bees to pollinate the earth’s 250,000 flowering plants.”

A sobering sentence straight out of Bee Basics: An Introduction to Our Native Bees, a joint publication from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service and the Pollinator Partnership. Authors Beatriz Moisset, Ph.D. and Stephen Buchmann, Ph.D. provide a concise primer on the fundamentals and cyclical heritage of our ‘varied and valuable’ native bees.

You may know that bees are sociable, resourceful, and resilient. But did you know that some species are downright parasitically opportunistic? The cuckoo bee is a member of the exclusively parasitic Apidae family. Once it scouts out a potential host site, it furtively waits out of view until the nest is vacated. Then, in a one-two-punch move, the cuckoo bee takes up residence and its young eventually shovel down up any pollen, nectar, and larva in sight.

Buchmann’s highly detailed illustrations of these pixie pollinators show how each species’ morphology is engineered for precise pollination. Bees use wing vibration to shake off a pollen-packed anther like a polaroid picture. This “buzz pollination” is a popular dance in bee social circles. The southeastern blueberry bee uses the same technology to gorge itself on blueberry pollen. Another pollination prodigy is the megachilid bee. Gathering so much puffy yellow pollen on its abdomen, it resembles, as the authors amusingly write, “flying ‘Cheetos’ snacks coming in for a landing.”


Can you identify a bee from a wasp? Excerpt from publication. Click image to enlarge.

The publication also details the homemaker behaviors of bees. The metallic-colored sweat bee is the consummate DIY designer. Nesting itself in the underside of freely-available detritus tree bark, it uses a saliva-pollen amalgam to lovingly tile the interior of its egg chambers. Some domesticating mother bees though the use of mass provisioning—storing up enough food in their brood cell nursery to sustain each larvae for the entirety of their development. New moms, take note!

Bee Basics is a great compliment to citizen science efforts to enrich and sustain a pollinator-friendly ecosystem. It concludes with a ecological call to action. The list of worrisome environmental realities are extensive: honey bee die-offs, shrinking native ranges, pesticide use, fungal infestations, and more. Protecting the ecosystem well-being of these minuscule pollinators requires a concerted conservation effort and a respect for the priceless services they provide. Bees have more than paid their dues to this planet. And for that, we are indebted.

How do I obtain this publication?

Shop Online Anytime: You can buy eBooks or print publications —with FREE Standard Shipping worldwide— from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore at http://bookstore.gpo.gov.

Shop our Retail Store: Buy a copy of any print editions from this collection at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.

Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.

Visit a Federal depository library: Search for U.S. Government publications in a nearby Federal depository library. You can find the records for most titles in GPO’s Catalog of U.S. Government Publications.

About the author: Our guest blogger is Chelsea Milko, Public Relations Specialist in GPO’s Office of Public Affairs. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: