Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. What is a native California bee species?
A: A bee species that has evolved over many years
with its native host plant flowers under pristine environmental
conditions in some part of the state. That is, it has always been
Q2. What is an exotic bee species?
A: A bee species that has been introduced into the
state during the recent times, almost always with the help of humans.
Fortunately, there are relatively few examples of exotic bee species
Q3. Is the familiar honey bee a native or exotic
A: It was introduced by humans into the New World
from Europe years ago. It is a classic example of an exotic species
that has become naturalized in many different California habitats.
Q4. Does the European honey bee (EHB) in northern
California differ greatly from the exotic Africanized honey bee
(AHB) which has recently moved from S. California to the S. San
A: Both species are subspecies of Apis mellifera,
and they look very similar with the AHB usually a little smaller
in size and often a little darker. The greatest difference is observed
in their behavior. AHB have a more sensitive defensive behavior,
and some colonies can carry out their defense in aggressive ways
through persistent pursuit and massive stinging of would be intruders.
Fortunately, not all colonies are equally nasty in their defensive
Q5. What is a social bee?
A: Honey bees are social in their behavior as they
form colonies with a highly structured caste system of drones, queens,
and a range of worker types, each with a different colony task.
Colonies remain active year round with cooperation among all members
to provide food for developing brood (offspring) and to clean and
protect the colony.
Q6. Are most bees social?
A: No, relatively few are truly social. There are,
however, intermediate cases between social and solitary habit.
Q7. What is the solitary bee habit?
A: Solitary bees have a simple lifestyle that does
not include colonies and a structured caste system. In its simplest
form, male and female bees of a species emerge at a particular time
of the year and mate. The male usually dies shortly thereafter.
The fertilized female proceeds to build and provision a nest of
several cells by her self. Within each cell, a single bee will develop.
Once a given nest of perhaps 3-10 cells is completed, the female
closes the nest and leaves. The provisioned cells with pollen and
nectar are sufficient to feed the developing new bee larvae until
they become adults, usually the following year. Then, the adults
emerge to start the next generation.
Q8. Do the urban bee-plant patterns of the San
Francisco Bay Area apply to other areas of California and to other
states as well?
A: We are just beginning to look at other areas
around California for the bee-flower patterns we have observed
in this area. We have also asked colleagues in other states to
check their ornamental plants for bees. This phase of our work
is in a very preliminary stage, but it seems that bees are also
diverse and common in other areas provided that the right host
plants are present. We expect to have much more to say about this
matter in the future.