Discover Nature NotesMore posts

Pollinator Power

Aug 06, 2018

Their sight and sound might bring panic at a picnic but our need for bees is crucial. Bees make up a powerful force of pollinators that are responsible for 75% of food production worldwide and help with habitats that many animals rely on for food and shelter. One-third of our calories come from bees and 70-80% of our nutrients like vitamins and minerals come from bee pollinated produce.

Missouri has more than 450 different species of bees including many types of bumblebees. Honeybees are not native but important to global agriculture and economies. Our native bees are thought to be the most proficient pollinators. A single blueberry bee can visit 50,000 flowers in its short lifetime resulting in 6,000 blueberries. If you have a garden, you will need bumblebees to pollinate tomatoes and peppers. If you grow squash you will need a squash bee.

Many of our native bees have evolved to service specific plants. Bees have a mutual relationship with plants and are known as intentional pollinators. Unlike birds, bats, butterflies, and others that accidentally pollinate as they feed on nectar, bees specifically collect pollen. Without native bees many of our plants could not reproduce effectively and there would be fewer seeds and fruits. Many species of wildlife rely on pollinated plants for food as well.

Because they are small, bees can be invisible to people who miss the larger connection of their importance to food production. Without them our produce aisles would be bare. With less of them, our harvests will be smaller and prices will rise. Bees and other pollinators are declining. Anyone with an apartment balcony, backyard, or a farm can help by planting native plants that support native pollinators and other simple practices.

Simple Ways to Help Bees, Wildlife and People

  • Plant Native: Bees love a big clump of color. Native plants will bloom all season long and help increase bee populations which will help your fruit and vegetable gardens.
  • Mow Less: Research has shown that mowing every other week will bring a 60% increase in bees. Even better, mowing every third week will bring a 300% increase in bees. So you can relax, let the yard grow and help the bees.
  • Mulch Less: Mulching helps new plants but after established it's less necessary. Many bees nest in the ground and need exposed soil to build their nest and come and go.

Bees are surprisingly more diverse in cities than many rural areas or suburbs. St. Louis has one of the most diverse bee populations in the midwest. And Calvary Cemetery on the north side has the most diverse population on its prairie remnant, land that has never seen a plow. All seven species of bumblebees found in Missouri are here. In partnership with St. Louis University, researchers are studying this area and have found new species. Hear more about their work and native bees in the video below.


common eastern bumblebee
Common Eastern Bumblebee

BEES in the HOOD

Check out bees in the St. Louis hood and how their diversity helps us
Check out bees in the St. Louis hood and how their diversity helps us

Pollinator Power: Bees Food Source

If you like burgers, beers and fresh summer produce, watch how bees make it happen
If you like burgers, beers and fresh summer produce, watch how bees make it happen

Pollinator Power: Their Amazing Story

See how pollinators make life better
See how pollinators make life better

Pollinator Power: Bee Lazy

Learn how you can "bee lazy" and help bees
Learn how you can "bee lazy" and help bees

Recent Posts

Shoal Creek

On the Water

Jun 23, 2019

COOL OFF On the Water this summer.  With more than 110,000 miles of rivers and streams, Missouri has many chill choices for floating, fishing, and more.  Get inspired with some famous Missouri musicians playing live in 8 water locations, and find helpful tips in this week's Discover Nature Note.  Note:  Please check weather, road, and water conditions before heading out.


cowbird egg in dickcissel nest

Nest Eggs

Jun 17, 2019

One of these eggs is out of place. There's a devious plan at work in this nest. Find out why, and how bird eggs are designed for competitive edge, in this week's Discover Nature Note.

Flathead Catfish

Fish Fathers

Jun 09, 2019

Father's Day is a popular time of year for family fishing. Check out two fish fathers who would qualify for "super dad" status when it comes to raising young fry. Learn their techniques and catch some fishing tips in this week's Discover Nature Note.

Field Guide

Discovering nature from A-Z is one click away


You had fun hunting, catching or gathering your quarry—now have more fun cooking and eating it.
Check out the recipes