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Urban Science Adventure: Appreciating Bees

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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Now is the time to get outdoors and experience what the world has to offer. One thing that you can keep in mind is that there are insects everywhere, including our back yards! A simple past time that you can enjoy alone, with a group, or with your family is taking a step outdoors and try to identify the insects that call your backyard home.
Insects can be very interesting and easy to study. The main concept about insects is that they have three body parts; head, thorax, and abdomen. They also have three pairs of jointed legs and one pair of antennae.


An interesting insect that you may find anywhere in the country are honeybees. By now, we all know that we need them to pollinate not just flowers, but many of the fruits and vegetables that we eat. Without honeybees, life as we know it would plummet. That’s just how important they are.

Bees are perhaps one of the most interesting urban wildlife creatures. Bees are invertebrate insects belonging to the order Hymenoptera. Hymenoptera include all bees, wasps, hornets, and ants. Like other Hymenopterans, they are comprised of female-dominated societies. If you’ve ever been stung by one of these creatures it was a female. That’s because the stinger of a bee is a modified ovipositor – or egg laying structure.

In urban areas, most people occasionally encounter bees at the park, open fields, and flower gardens. They can be pesky and even dangerous if you are allergic to bee stings. But bees are also important environmental engineers. Bees help pollinate flowers, trees, and crop plants. When you observe bees buzzing around a field or a flowered tree they are doing an important job. Unlike animals, plants can’t move or travel in order to find mates, so instead pollinating insects like bees carry pollen from one flower to another. Pollen is the equivalent to sperm of animals. The bees collect nectar of plants and the yellow pollen attaches to their fuzzy abdomen and prickly legs. When they visit the next flower, some of the pollen gets left behind and they pick up new pollen. It’s like an unintentional delivery service for plants.

This seemingly innocent act of transferring pollen is no light matter. Some species of plants depend almost entirely on bees for reproduction. That’s why the news of dwindling native bee species is such a serious matter. If there are fewer bees or no bees, then we’re in trouble, too. Farmers who grow important crops like wheat, corn, and other grains depend on this simple act of Mother Nature to keep things going. Plus, honey is an important and delicious agriculture product.

So, the next time you’re outside enjoying the fresh air, keep an eye out for bees. And remember that they are a vital part of our ecosystem.

More info about bees and contributions from previous blog posts Urban Science Adventures! ©:

Urban Wildlife Watch – The Buzz about Bees and Honey Bees Buzz with Individuality

Additional contribution for this piece by CaTameron Bobino, my social media intern.

DNLee About the Author: DNLee is a biologist and she studies animal behavior, mammalogy, and ecology . She uses social media, informal experiential science experiences, and draws from hip hop culture to share science with general audiences, particularly under-served groups. Follow on Twitter @DNLee5.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. CDC53 12:56 am 07/9/2014

    People need to plant more sages in their yards and parks. We now have zillions of bees since we planted water saving sages.

    Some of the best are:
    Salvia greggii
    Salvia apiana
    Salvia brandegei
    Salvia clevelandii
    Salvia leucophylla
    Salvia mellifera
    Salvia munzii
    Salvia sonomensis
    Salvia spathacea

    Link to this
  2. 2. labellaflora 4:05 am 07/9/2014

    I want to point out that this post needs editing, as there are words missing at the ends of sentences.

    Regarding bees, I have a number of crepe myrtle trees and the yard hums with the hundreds of bees that come to gather pollen. It only takes a second or two to frantically gather the pollen of one flower before they jump to the next. They look like they are wearing yellow pantaloons!

    Link to this

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