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 Bee Pollination

- Bee pollinators other than honey bees -

Summary: Honey bees perform most of the pollination of agriculturally important insect pollinated plants. However, other insects, and even some birds, also transfer pollen between the flowers they visit. Mason bees and bumble bees are probably the most important pollinators after honey bees.

Jack DeAngelis, PhD
OSU Ext. Entomologist (ret.)

Many insects, either deliberately or accidentally, transfer pollen from one flower to another, the act being called pollination. Bees are particularly well equipped to make this transfer because of the dense hairs that capture the pollen grains (see Honey Bees for a picture of a honey bee with collected pollen). Pollen from one flower collects on these hairs and is brushed off when the bee visits another flower.

While honey bees are the best known pollinators, many other bees are important as well. Among the most important to gardeners and orchardists are mason bees and bumble bees (see Related Articles below). Mason bees are a bit smaller than honey bees and blue/black in color (see photo). They don't live in colonies but rather nest individually in small cavities or holes. They are excellent pollinators but do not produce honey. Many gardeners construct nest blocks to encourage mason bees in their gardens and orchards.

Related Articles

HOW TO RAISE AND MANAGE ORCHARD MASON BEES FOR THE HOME GARDEN See this North Carolina Extension publication for a plan to build a mason bee nest block.

What are Bumble Bees?

a mason bee

A mason bee, Osmia ribifloris (on a barberry flower). Photo by USDA/ARS

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