There is a lot of misinformation when it comes to nature's pollinators, especially with bees. Most of our knowledge is based on a European honeybee, when there are thousands of bee species in danger.

Honeybee landing on milkthistle
(Photo: Fir0002 / Wikimedia Commons)

Bees are Important Pollinators

People love honeybees. We prosper from their pollination powers that give us fruits and flowers. At the same time, their honey is simply to die for. 

On the other hand, humans are only aware of one species. There are, in fact, 20,000 known bee species that make nature colorful. The well-known European honeybees or Apis mellifera is only one part of the large bee family.

Bees come in a vast array of sizes.  The Euryglossina is usually 2mm long, while larger Megachile/ Chalicodoma pluto bees from Indonesia can grow up to 4cm long.

There are many bee species that don't conform to the black and yellow perception.

North American sweat bees or Agapostemon splendens, for example, are green and blue. On the other hand, North American Carpenter bees have black females and yellow males.

The European honeybees are one of the most prolific honey makers. However, roughly half a dozen honeybees in South Asia are similarly exploited.

ALSO READ: Unlike Honeybees, Solitary Bees are Born with Functional Internal Clock, Study Finds

Sting Misconceptions

There are many misconceptions when it comes to bee stings. First, only female bees can sting. This is because the stinger is actually a modified version of the bees' egg-laying organ (ovipositor).

Richard Comont of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust in the U.K says, "No male bee of any species can sting, even honeybees, and bumblebees."

Another widespread belief is that bees have barbed stingers that can be lodged in the target's skin, ultimately leading to the bees' demise. In reality, only honeybee workers do this. Most species have barbless stingers and won't cause mundane harm.

In addition, most bee species aren't fond of stinging, especially for solitary bees that make up roughly half of all known bee species.

Female solitary bees are fertile, which is why stinging is the last option for these bee species. Comont adds, "It's far better for them to flee and fight another day."

There are roughly 500 bee species with reduced stingers that are known as "stingless bees."

The value added by been in agriculture is an estimated $70 billion per year. This is why researchers and stakeholders have a growing concern for the disappearance and rapid decline of bee populations.

Comont explains that there isn't enough information to paint a complete picture of wild bee population decline. However, as of date, the U.K had lost 2 species of bumblebees and 18 solitary bees only in the 20th century.

The complex symbiotic relationship between flowers and bees goes back millions of years ago when flowers and plants first flourished.

With the systematic stripping of flowers in countrysides, the only way to change course is to put the flowers back.

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