Staff Pollinator Picks #9 and 10

Everybody probably has a favorite insect. We thought it would be fun to ask our pollinator staff to suggest their favorite pollinator. With so many pollinators to choose from, it gives a glimpse into the diversity that’s out there waiting to be watched and enjoyed. Here are the ninth and tenth picks in our series of staff pollinator favorites!

Tickle bees (aka mining bees, genus Andrena)

Mace Vaughan, Pollinator Conservation Program Co-Director

By now, many of you may know of my appreciation for the ground-nesting mining bees that make their home in the field at my daughter’s elementary school in Portland, Oregon. They are not especially beautiful, but their gentle disposition and local abundance make them excellent ambassadors for bees. Look for them during the first warm days of spring, as they emerge from the ground and visit early blooming trees and wildflowers.


Blue orchard bee (Osmia lignaria)

Jessa Kay Cruz, Senior Pollinator Conservation Specialist (California)

blue-orchard-beeIt is very hard for me to pick a favorite pollinator, as I find them all so fascinating and charismatic. However, I will always have a special place in my heart for the blue orchard bee, as it was my work with BOB that got me interested in native bees in general. As the name suggests, orchard bees are excellent pollinators of orchard crops, including apples, cherries and almonds. As a graduate student, I was completing an internship in California’s Central Valley region and working in almond orchards when I stumbled across some farmers experimenting with using BOB for almond pollination.

BOB is a striking bee — large and robust and a deep blue color that gleams with a metallic luster in the sunlight. They nest in abandoned boring beetle tunnels in tree snags or fallen logs, and seem quite willing to nest in ‘bee blocks’ in settings where they are being managed. They lay their eggs in small compartments that they construct by dividing the tunnel with mud walls. In there, the bees complete development and overwinter as adults, still encased in their cocoons. As soon as temperatures begin to warm in the early spring, they chew their way out of their cocoons and through the mud walls, taking flight immediately, in search of pollen and nectar.