GUIDE TO WILD BEES
AT ROCKEFELLER STATE PARK PRESERVE / NEW YORK
AND STONE BARNS CENTER FOR FOOD & AGRICULTURE
Beginning in July, 2014, photographers Paula Sharp and Ross Eatman undertook a three-year photographic project documenting wild bees inhabiting New York's Rockefeller State Park Preserve and neighboring Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. This project was made possible through support from the New York State Environmental Protection Fund.
Rockefeller State Park Preserve, located in Pleasantville, New York, is a haven for wild bees. Careful management of the park's meadows and trail edges has resulted in a proliferation of native bees, which are attracted to the park by its diverse array of wildflowers -- among them, wild azaleas, countless spring woodland bulbs, American white water lilies, four varieties of milkweed and large swathes of dogbane and meadow flowers. The preserve's Visitor Center garden also contains a range of native plants that provide nectar and pollen for wild pollinators.
At the heart of Rockefeller State Park Preserve lies Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, an eighty-acre non-profit working farm that practices sustainable agriculture and serves as a farming education center. Stone Barns cultivates a multitude of crops, fruit trees, vegetables and cut flowers. Its grounds contain a greenhouse and several flower gardens, including a bee garden situated beside a colony of beehives.
This arrangement fosters a dynamic ecosystem in which domesticated honey bees and other pollinators travel between woodland nests and flora in the preserve and flowering plants in the agricultural production areas and gardens of Stone Barns. The result is a richly diverse population of pollinating insects that includes more than 100 documented species of wild bees.
Wild bees are important pollinators of wildflowers, garden flowers and commercial crops including fruit trees, berries, melons and garden vegetables. Although domesticated honey bees are often used to pollinate cultivated plants, wild bees are able to pollinate many flowers and crops that honey bees cannot. Bumble bees and carpenter bees, for instance, practice "buzz pollination" -- they vibrate flight muscles in order to shake pollen from flowers. Azaleas and rhododendrons require this form of pollination, as do vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplants.
Other species of native bees are essential to commercial crop production. Wild squash bees, for example, are the sole pollinators of many varieties of squash and are more efficient pollinators of zucchinis and watermelons than domesticated bees. Leafcutter bees are far more productive than honey bees in pollinating alfalfa and greenhouse carrots. With the advent of colony collapse disorder, a phenomenon that has severely diminished honey bee populations, wild bees' role as pollinators of commercial produce and wildflowers has become even more significant.
This guide features fine photographs of wild bees in their natural habitats. All of these bees were found during 2014-2017 in Rockefeller Park and Stone Barns. Our search for new bee species continues. The guide is designed for nature-lovers who wish to rely on the naked eye to identify various kinds of wild bees, and who like to observe rather than collect bees -- state parks prohibit the killing and collecting of wild fauna.
There is still very little information available on the Web about the behavior of wild bees. This is despite the fact that countless species have been catalogued through phenomenal web information hubs such as bugguide.net and discoverlife.org. Thus, this guide, where possible, has attempted to supply information beyond pure taxonomy about the behavior of each species featured.
To find a bee in our guide, you can cruise through our guide pages in order, beginning with our first section on SQUASH BEES; or you can use our quick BEE FINDER. We hope you enjoy the guide. We welcome comments, corrections and new information.
Photo at page top:
Swan Lake at Rockefeller State Park Preserve
This website's photos and text are protected by registered copyright. All photos are © 2014-2017 Paula Sharp & Ross Eatman, all rights reserved. To inquire about possible use of photos, see Permissions.