About Bees

European Honey Bees

Honey bees are best known to gardeners and homeowners. They produce honey, live in hives, occasionally form swarms and have traits that identify them as Social Bees, because:

  • They live in large, highly organized colonies;
  • They work co-operatively to ensure the colony’s survival, and
  • They move as a single group (called a swarm) when a new nesting site is needed.

Contrary to popular belief, Honey Bees are not aggressive and won’t sting unless they feel threatened.

Bumble Bees

Bumble bees are the largest bees, with very recognizable markings that make them one of the easiest bees to identify in the garden. Like Honey bees, Bumble bees are considered Social Bees, but with a few important differences:

  • They live in very small colonies;
  • They make very little honey, and
  • They live for only one season.

Bumble Bee colonies die in winter, but before this happens, the colony produces a small group of queens that, after becoming fertile, fly off to begin new colonies alone the following spring.

Solitary Bees (Wild and Native Bees)

Eastern Ontario has nearly four hundred species of wild bees, about 300 of which are considered important as pollinators. Most wild bees are native to Ontario and don’t include introductions from Europe. Despite being a large and diverse group, many wild bees go unnoticed and most do not have a common name.

Native bees are called Solitary bees because they do not live in large groups, and they forage alone. They live for only one season and since they do not overwinter as adults, they do not need to make much honey. Native bees rely more on pollen for food than nectar, which they stockpile for their overwintering offspring to eat in spring. Wild bees are not aggressive and rarely sting, and many are so small and may be mistaken for flies.

When it comes to pollinating food crops, the contribution made by wild bees may rival that of the Honey bee, which gets all the credit. But unfortunately, like Honey bees, the population of wild bees has dropped significantly in recent years. Solitary bees forage across smaller distances, often feeding on very specific, native pollen sources, and reproduce in smaller numbers compared to Honey bees. This leaves them highly vulnerable to population decline.

The loss of suitable habitat through increasing urban development, eliminates sources of food, shelter and suitable nesting sites. This, combined with the commercial use of pesticides, seriously threatens their long term survival.

Fortunately, habitat loss is an easy problem to fix. Home back yards that are richly planted with bee friendly plants, helps restore what has been lost while providing homeowners with more attractive space to enjoy.

Click on the link below to see how home gardens can help provide food and shelter for our pollinating partners.