Utah State University professor knows the buzz about bees
What: “What’s the Buzz: Bee Diversity and Conservation,” by Dr. Joseph Wilson
When: 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 16
Where: Swaner EcoCenter, 1258 Center Drive and Kimball Junction
Cost: $7 or free for EcoCenter members
Anyone who has been stung by a bee while in the Beehive State can assume the stinger wasn’t a Utah native, says Rhea Cone, the Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter volunteer coordinator.
“Most Utah bees don’t have stingers at all,” Cone said. “Also, most of the Utah bees are solitary and don’t live in hives.”
The public will learn more about the attributes of Utah bees at “What’s the Buzz: Bee Diversity and Conservation,” a presentation given by Dr. Joseph Wilson, an associate professor of biology who studies bee ecology and evolution at Utah State University, at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 16, at the EcoCenter. The cost is $7 for the general public and free for EcoCenter members. Registration is required, and can be done by visiting swanerecocenter.org.
Wilson’s presentation will be followed by a question and answer section, and he will sign copies of his book, “The Bees in Your Backyard,” Cone said.
The lecture comes at a critical time for bees as a swift decline in the U.S. pollinator population takes place, according to a 2019 study by the University of New Hampshire.
“It seems more people are paying attention to what’s happening with bees, because the conversation has shifted from people being afraid of bees to people being afraid for bees,” said Cone, who is also a bee enthusiast. “We love bees, and there has been a growth in interest about bees in the past couple of years, so this lecture is timely for us.”
There are 4,000 bee species in the United States, and Utah is home to 900 of them, according to Cone.
“A lot of people aren’t aware of our native pollinators and they need help to survive just like the honeybee,” she said.
Native bees come in different colors — blue, green and the classic yellow and black, she said.
“Most of them nest in the ground and don’t live in hives. So when people ask how they can help bees, one of the ways is to leave your leaf litter or piles of sticks on the ground during the spring, so the bees can lay their eggs.”
Bees, regardless of the species, are essential pollinators, Cone said.
“One that is important in Utah is the blue orchard bee,” she said. “It pollinates more efficiently than a honeybee, and you will see them in different orchards along the Wasatch Front.”
Another Utah native is the Utah squash bee.
“This one is responsible for pollinating squash, pumpkin and cucumber plants in peoples’ gardens,” Cone said.
Of course, there is the common honeybee, which isn’t native to Utah. In fact, the bee isn’t native to the United States, according to Cone.
“It was brought to North America in the 1620s, when the first settlers arrived from Europe,” she said. “It is also one of the few bee species that make honey.”
Bees are part of the hymenoptera order of insects, which includes ants, sawflies and wasps, and unlike wasps, true bees are herbivores, Cone said.
“They eat pollen and nectar, and since they don’t eat meat, their food doesn’t run (away),” she said. “So they aren’t typically aggressive, and that’s why many bees don’t have stingers.”
Cone has always been fascinated with bees, and took numerous entomology classes in college.
“I love to see more and more people getting interested in bees and knowing more about bees,” she said. “There is so much to learn about bees, and I love sharing that with people.”
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