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 Garden Club of Taos

Beginners' Guide to Bees, Wasps, Flies and Other Pollinators:

Honey Bees-

All species of Honey Bees are classified under the one genus of Apis and are characterized by their ability

to produce and store honey and build comb from wax (they are the only bees to have a wax gland). No

species of Honey Bee is native to North America.

Bees Native to North America-

There are roughly 4,000 species of bee native to Nonh America (roughly 20,000 known species of bees

worldwide). The nesting habits of these bees range widely from burrowing into the ground, to using stems

and sticks, to building right inside adobe walls. Some bees do not build nests, and will simply place their

eggs into the nests ofother bees.


Predating bees evolutionarily (both are in the order of Hymenoptera),bees can be considered wasps that

have adapted to a vegetarian diet. Wasps are an essential garden pollinator and predator. Wasps eat

"meat" (other arthropods and bits of carrion) in their larval stage and nectar in their adult stage, thus

providing both garden benefits. Because wasps are a rvell-known predator to most garden pests, studies

show that simply having rnultiple bees and wasps flying through your garden (even if they don't hunt

anything) can alone decrease pest damage done to crops as the pests attempt to "fall to safety" every time

a Hymenoptera flies by. There are roughly 12,000 species of wasp in North America. The vast majority of

these wasps are solitary, so they lack a stinger since they have no large nest to protect. They may appear

frightening with a long ovipositor trailing behind them. but it is for laying eggs, not stinging. Yellow

Jackets, Hornets, and Paper Wasps are the only social vespidwasps we have (only about 40 species in

all). These wasps work together to construct a large nest and provision it with food and young. They are

truly social in that they all work and lay equally, lacking a queen. These are the defensive and stinging

wasps that give the rest of the 11,960 species a bad name.


One of the largest orders of insects on earth is that of flies-Diptera. Of the I 88 families within this order,

7l have been reported visiting flowers. Though pollination has not been recorded for all of them, many

species seem to be inadvertent pollinators. Being generalists, flies also provide many other ecosystem

benefits including:the clean-up and removalof detritus and waste products (both animaland vegetable),

parasitizing other insects which can both reduce pests and help to keep beneficial insect gene pools

strong, as well as being a major food source for many other beneficials.

Bees vs. Wasps

>Wasps tend to have more dramatic coloration and patterns.

> Wasps are less hairy than bees (and the hairs they do have are a single filament, as opposed to the branched       hairs of bees).

> Wasps never carry pollen.

Bees vs. Flies

> Flies have only two wings; bees and wasps have four.

> Flies are generally less hairy than bees.

> Flies typically have large eyes near the front of their heads that often nearly meet on the top; those of bees         are off to the side.

> Flies' antennae are shorter; they are stubby with a single protruding bristle. 

> Flies don't carry pollen loads (though some do have markings that mimic pollen nodules).

Other Pollinating Animals:

. Ants

. Bats

. Beetles

. Butterflies

. Gnats

. Hemiptera-"True Bugs" (many, many species within this order)

. Humans

. Hummingbirds (a few other birds as well)

. Lemurs

. Lizards

. Moths

. Mice

. Possums

. SIugs

. Thrips

80% of all plants on earth require animal involvement for successful pollination (biotic pollination). Of

the remainingv20% of plants that are pollinated abiotically, 9S%o are pollinated by wind (anemophil) and

gravity (primarily grasses, conifers, and a large selection deciduous trees) and 2% are pollinated by water

(hydrophily), virtually all of these are aquatic plants.

As always, next to habitat loss, the biggest threat to pollinators and our ecosystem overall is the use of

herbicides, pesticides, and other toxic chemicals. Please refrain frorn using these substances, and

encourage the people in your life to do the same. We are huppy to discuss alternative methods of pest and

weed control at no cost.

A significant amount of this information came from the Xerces Society-their book Attracting Native

Pollinators, specifically. For more information and a complete recommended reading list, please visit Thank you for supporting our wild friends!

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