Radford Public Library (30 W. Main Street) will host Virginia Tech Extension Associate Tim McCoy in a talk about native honeybees from 5-6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 20.
People of all ages and backgrounds are encouraged to attend to learn about the often-overlooked and sometimes vilified native bees of our region.
McCoy will explain how and why we should help native bees that live solitary lives struggling to find flowers and a place to lay eggs. They are like “the single moms” of the bee world says McCoy.
The program will touch on biology, behavior, nesting habits and what you can do to help these important pollinators.
While there is a lot of attention paid to honeybees, a European import that live in large, social groups, 30-40,000 bees in a colony, a solitary sweat bee will lay maybe 20-30 eggs in a year.
Native bees are easily overlooked and valuable pollinators and important and sensitive perhaps more susceptible to the harms than honeybees.
“Native bees might nest near each other, but they don’t have interaction that are social.
Their reproductive potential is much lower and there’s not a colony of them,” he said.
“Putting up nests in tubes helps. Individual bees will find the tube will make nesting cells for their offspring. She’ll use a few tubes and provision them. She’ll put her reproductive effort is in those tubes,” McCoy said. “Nests, hotels, houses. We are able to give them conditions they can take advantage of and they’re incredibly opportunistic.”
Different bee species need different depth of tubes. The talk will discuss how to build your own bee nest and give handouts providing information on the different nest designs and nest design plans.
“We should be worried about the fate of native bees because they provide a lot of pollination services some doing a better than honey bees.”
While nests are important to help native bees in their struggles, planting native flowers, not only feed those solitary creatures, but also a world of insects.
“The best thing people can do is plant more flowers and native flowers,” McCoy said in a phone interview. “Even a small patch of flowers. I converted 700-square-feet of my backyard and planted annuals and perennials using seed from American Meadows. It was incredibly inspiring to transform a boring patch of grass to a vibrant meadow. There were bees, ants, pollinators and a hummingbird showed up.”
Interestingly, Tim McCoy works with the Virginia Tech Pesticide Programs where he develops pesticide safety educational materials focused on protecting non-target species like bees and other pollinators and his experience in pesticide safety is perfectly suited for talking about native bees and how to help them.
“One part of my talk about native bees is about using pesticides safely and responsibly – if at all.”
McCoy has been speaking to different groups about native bees now for about four years.
Native bees include bumblebees, carpenter bees, and sweat bees and people often have strong opinions about those species, McCoy said.
“Sweat bees they’re very, very good pollinators and carpenter bees are categorized as an urban pest because they do do some damage to structures but that damage is largely cosmetic, and not structural,” he said.
McCoy says his talk focuses on the importance of these native bees, why we care about them and what homeowners and folks can do to help them out.
For more information contact the Radford Public Library at (540) 731-3621 and Aaron Riegel at aaron.Riegel@radfordva.gov