Would you rather have a clean dog or a muddy dog jump up on your sofa? That's an easy question because no one wants a messy sofa. But in nature, messy is sometimes better. This video from last year's garden shows one reason some wild bees, such as mason bees and leafcutter bees, are more efficient pollinators than honey bees. Notice how the leafcutter bee's abdomen and legs are covered in yellow pollen?
Click to set custom HTML
For comparison, I searched for video of a honey bee foraging on the same type of flower. This pretty footage of a Western honey bee from Dr. Mark Shepherd does a great job. Notice how neat and tidy the honey bee's body is?
The honey bee collects pollen on its body hairs then moistens the particles with nectar and brushes them down into pollen baskets on its legs. Honey bees are excellent pollen collectors. The leafcutter bee, by comparison, has no pollen baskets and carries the dry pollen back to her nest on her body hairs without moistening it. Leafcutter bees are excellent pollen spreaders. This is one reason research shows wild bees to be 2 to 3 times better pollinators than honey bees.
If we can increase the number of wild bees in our communities, there can be more of them to pollinate our crops. Better-pollinated crops generally produce more and larger fruit. And more fruit equals fewer hungry people!
Ask me how you can become part of this equation by raising these gentle, valuable pollinators this summer in your own backyard.