Spring has sprung and bees are buzzing. Honeybees forage during winter’s warmer days, but native bees take a break from their duties, being safely tucked away in nests of wood or soil, or waiting to emerge from enclosures of plants. As days lengthen and warm, they make their way into gardens. This early spring, I’ve observed several native bee species that I regularly see during the growing season. The first ones who show up to work are the tiny black carpenter bees (Ceratina), followed by a variety of Green Sweat bees, like this emerald beauty, perhaps an Osmia ribifloris.
This type of metallic green bee belongs to the Halictidae family of bees and are common in gardens with a variety of flowers for nectaring and pollen gathering. Bees who forage from a wide array of plants are polylectic. As they visit flowers, females gather pollen on their legs (which you can see in the photos) for their nests. This one is working the blooms of Giant Spiderwort, Tradescantia, but I’ve seen her kind on other flowers.
Her whole body is curled around the anther of the bloom where the pollen is located, all-in to her goal of gathering pollen. A front on photo, while not crystal clear, allows us to glimpse her face. She looks determined in her work, as she packs her little legs full of golden pollen.
These shiny, metallic bees are fast flyers, but observable and not at all rare. They and their cousin metallic bees love a blooming garden.
It’s a dandy day when one is privileged to observe an eager pollinator on an early spring flower. On a warm February day in bright sunshine, this Green Sweat Bee (Halictidae) visited a non-native Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, situated along a pathway in my front garden. It’s not an official flower in my garden, but I welcome it just the same.
I’m a big fan of native plants and avoid using invasive plants in my garden, but I admit to a soft-spot for this weedy thing that so many love to hate. I’m tolerant of dandelions because they offer themselves to pollinators in times when others are not prepared to provide. The common dandelion endures curses, noxious sprays, and physical destruction–but not in my garden. Once the cheery yellow is done, I’ll maybe snip off the seed head–if I notice it. But destroy a flower that’s available to feed a bee or moth or butterfly? That’s a un-dandy thing to do!
On a cloudy, not-too-windy morning, I strolled through my front garden, stopping to admire one of my Globe Mallow, Sphaeralcea ambigua, shrubs. Its soft silver-green ruffly foliage, paired with the stunning dreamsicle orange blooms melts my gardener’s heart.
Out of the corner of my eye, I glimpsed a streak of movement, though it took a minute or so for me to see it again, catching sight once the flash landed. It was a zippy thing, this flash, not lingering on any surface–until it did. The mystery critter proved to be a Green Sweat Bee, Halictidae, and was all in with the luscious mallow blooms.
I was pleased to see this bee at the mallow, though not surprised: this plant attracts a wide variety of pollinators. I now have enough areas of full sun for this gorgeous native North American plant to grow it in several areas of my garden.