When we think of bees, we often imagine honey bees. We imagine a swarm buzzing around a hive.
But honey bees are just one of 400 different types of bees in Ontario (And we’re discovering new species of bees all the time!).
And honey bees aren’t even a native species.
In fact, honey bees are relatively new to Ontario. They were an agricultural import, brought to North America for honey production and crop pollination. Before bees crossed the ocean, Ontario’s main pollinators were native bees, whose behavior is often very different from the stereotypical honey bee.
Here are five other types of bees that buzz around our parks:
Did you know that only two types of bees (honey bees and bumblebees) are social, living together in a communal hive and joining together to create a swarm?
Like honey bees, Ontario’s 16 species of bumblebees are social. Females live together in a hive, but instead of creating comb, they make wax “pots” for honey. If you look inside a bumblebee nest, you will find small wax “barrels” filled with honey.
They are large bees and look like bumblebees.
Carpenter bees have earned a reputation for boring into wood siding to make their nests, but in parks they take advantage of our standing dead trees.
Leaf cutter bees
You may have seen signs of leafcutter bees in your garden or campsite. If you see a small crescent cut out of young leaves (especially on rose leaves), you may have been visited by leaf cutters.
Leafcutter bees make their nests in small wooden tunnels. They fill these small spaces with the leaves they collect, creating a cigar-shaped space to place the pollen and eggs. When the eggs hatch, the young eat the pollen.
This type of bee owes its name to the fact that they dig burrows in the ground. At your campsite, you may see what look like anthills, but with a larger hole and maybe a bee flying in and out.
Mining bees fill their burrows (which are almost like small cave systems) with pollen balls and then lay an egg in each ball. Pollen is the food of the bee larva.
Sweat bee nests are hard to find, but on hot summer days, sweat bees will visit you frequently. These little bees like the salt in your sweat and will land on your arms to drink it.
Like leafcutter bees, they typically make their nests in fallen logs (this is one of the reasons we ask campers not to pick or burn brush around their campsite).
Protecting our native bee species is a key part of protecting the biodiversity of our province. Each species of bee is essential for the pollination of crops, backyard gardens, and park wildflowers. They provide valuable food for other wildlife and are an important cog in Ontario’s ecosystems.
I want to help?
Report sightings on websites such as bumblebee clockeither plant a pollinator garden (Bees love plants with colorful flowers, such as milkweed, asters, and trillium.)