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Organization

All organisms are classified into taxonomic groups (taxa) based on shared characteristics. This hierarchical classification begins very broadly at the phylum level and the scope of the shared characteristics narrows as you trace the lineage down to the genus and species levels. Bees belong to the phylum Arthropoda, class Insecta, order Hymenoptera, and superfamily Apoidea.

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Shared Characteristics

Within Apoidea, there are six families of bees that are found in New Brunswick: Andrenidae, Apidae, Colletidae, Halictidae, Megachilidae, and Mellitidae.

 

The “-idae”  suffix is a good hint that the taxon being discussed is at the family level! Within a family, there can be extensive variation in morphology (i.e., body form) and behaviour (e.g., nesting patterns), therefore it’s difficult and not very helpful to try to describe a list of identifying characteristics for each bee family 

When we talk about organisms using scientific language (as opposed to common names), we refer to their genus and species, this is the most specific level of taxonomic organization. These classifications provide us with the most information about shared body form and identifying features. The convention within scientific naming systems is to list the genus first (italicized, capitalized) and the species second (italicized, not capitalized)- e.g., Bombus impatiens- this is the scientific name for the Common Eastern Bumblebee, one of the most abundant species of genus bombus in this region. We have a few pictures of this genus in the gallery! 

Native & Non-Native Bees

Just like other animals, there are bees that are native to where they are found and some that are non-native. Non-native bees were usually imported to the region by people. The European Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) is a wide spread non-native bee. It is found on all continents except Antarctica. Honey bees are easy to manage because they live in a colony above ground. Additionally, they produce very yummy honey for us to eat! 

Another non-native bee that has been widely introduced for agriculture is the Alfalfa Leafcutting Bee (Megachile rotundata). Also native to Europe the Alfalfa Leafcutting Bee was introduced because alfalfa fields were getting so big that native wild bees weren't pollinating the centres of them. This is one of the first times that a solitary bee has been able to be commercially managed

Most other bees found around NB are native bees (sometimes also called wild bees). These bees are unique because they have evolved alongside the native plants of the region and thus some have developed special features for certain plants. These are the types of bees we are focusing out research around for the Sackville Bee Project. 

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Bee Nests

Another key point to highlight is the differences in nesting strategies. Bee genera nest either above ground in cavities, such as hollow stems or structures created by other wood-burrowing insects, or below ground by tunneling a few inches into soil with no vegetative cover. Cavity-nesting bees make up a small portion ( <15%) of all bee species, while approximately 70% of solitary bees are ground-nesters. 

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