A very large number of people know that there is a difference between bees and wasps. It is safe to say that most people probably know that honey comes from bees and not wasps. People also tend to know that bees are very important pollinators in the wild, gardens, orchards and commercial farms. However, when people think of bees, they normally only think of honey bees. This is very far from the only bee species and the sweat bee is a great example.
Actually, there is a large number of species of sweat bees. These insects belong to the family called Halictidae and though there can be a lot of variation between species, they share the trait that they are strongly attracted to the various salts in human sweat, hence the common name. Like other bees, though, they will usually sting if they are angry or threatened. Still, the sting of sweat bees is usually much less painful than the sting of honey bees.
While honey bees form large colonies or ‘hives’, sweat bees are much more varied. Some sweat bees do form colonies. Others are solitary, usually burrowing into the dirt. The farther north the sweat bee species is, the more likely it is to be solitary. Some produce honey, although usually not nearly in the amounts that honey bees produce, while others don’t produce honey.
They can also differ a lot in appearance. Some species of sweat bees have a metallic sheen and can look more green and black than yellow and black. They can also appear almost entirely green.
Sweat bees share another important trait. They are very good and powerful pollinators. Most commercial honey, even in the US, comes from the European honey bee that has been imported into this country. This is a species that is well-known as being great for pollinating flowers on various plants. However, for many years, European honey bees have been dying off in the US, for various reasons. Plants still need to be pollinated, so this would seem to be a problem.
It really isn’t a severe issue in the US, though, except for with commercial honey producers. American honey bee populations are thriving and are immune to the diseases that are killing the European honey bee. Since they are rarely used for commercial honey production, they may not be numerous in all areas. That is where the sweat bee steps in. Many species of sweat bee are covered in hairs that make them excellent for carrying pollen from one plant to another.
In areas where sweat bees are totally absent, pollination still happens with ease, thanks to the sweat bees, bumble bees and wasps that seem happy to step in to do the work.
Sweat bees are powerful pollinators. People usually think of honey bees as the main pollinator for fruit trees, fruits, vegetables and flowers, but sweat bees are every bit as important in this role. In fact, in some places, there aren’t any honey bees to do the pollinating. Thankfully, there are usually species of sweat bees in those places that are quite ready to fill the same role.
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Posted in pets and animals and tagged bees, Bumblebee, Halictidae, Native plant, plants, pollinator, sweat bee by rextrulove with 1 comment.