Bees in Costa Rica: Honey Bees and Wild Bees
Worldwide, there are more than 20,000 species of bees. Just about 650 species of bees reside in Costa Rica. And 100 of them find Guanacaste’s dry forest to be their perfect habitat, right between Bagaces and Liberia. Sadly, all 650 species of bees in Costa Rica are endangered.

Although we might be more familiar with honey bees (Apidae) there are many types of lesser-known bees (Meliponinae) and they all have different qualities.

Not all bees species live in hives, some nestle underground, other nestle in cavities, some like to live in colonies, others prefer to be alone.

Bees species also differ in their foraging preferences. They select flowers based on their shape, color, and scent. Therefore, certain flowers are compatible only with certain types of bees. For example, deep flowers depend on bees with long tongues.

Did you know that wild pollinators are much more effective at pollination than honey bees? Honey bees have the sole purpose of bringing pollen to the hive for honey production. Because of this,  they transfer little to none to the flowers they visit. On the other hand, Wild Pollinators like Euglossini bees, do not produce honey but are vital for the conversation of Orchids.

The introduction of non-native species of flora has weakened the environment that bees depend on by reducing the number of flowers that bees can actually feed from. These alien species do not provide any pollination benefits to the bees, nor any benefits to the environment itself. Because of this, bee activity in Hojancha Guanacaste has decreased by 300%.

For each species of bees in Costa Rica, a flower or tree…

Research performed in Costa Rica by Gordon W. Frankie from the University of California, Berkeley, has found that “urban residential areas can support high diversities of local bee species.” This is why we cannot stress enough the importance of planting native species in your gardens. Having an abundance of flowers and flowering trees can promote a healthier environment for all bees alike, honeybees, stingless and solitary bees.

Throughout his research, Frankie has found that there is a direct relationship between the flower shape and the species of bees in Costa Rica. Reflecting on the co-evolution between plants and pollinators.

For example, bigger-sized bees prefer the flowers of Roble Sabana. While smaller stinger bees prefer the Malinche trees. The Orchid Bees (Euglossini) prefer feeding on the Yellow Oleander; a rather poisonous tree to humans. The Euglossini bees are solitary bees that do not produce honey but are very important for proper bee conservation.

A decline in honey bees and wild bees would have a direct impact on the plant community as well. Growing flower trees that support all the bee community is important to conserve the delicate environment and the balance it has. By promoting only a certain type of flora, some bees could be left without a home, nectar or pollen, and losing the variety of Guanacaste’s wild bee community could leave many cultivated and wild plants without their effective and unique pollinators.

Keep in tune for next week’s blog post from the series Architects for Bees.

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