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The diets of specialist bees

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  • Bees, like humans, have food preferences. While there may be a diversity of plants to forage from in a landscape, bees may preferentially visit specific flowering plants. Nectar and pollen are the primary resources bees collect from flowers. Bees might collect nectar from many different plants, but they can be picky about where they collect pollen. Bee diet breadth is characterized by pollen foraging habits of female bees (males don’t collect pollen), and exists on a spectrum from specialization to generalization. Around 65% of Western U.S. bee species are thought to be generalists, collecting pollen from four or more plant families. The remaining species collect pollen from three or fewer plant families, or may be as specific as collecting from a single plant genus. These species are referred to as specialists. Over 3 years, we collected and identified bees visiting plants in our research garden at Oak Creek Center for Urban Horticulture in Corvallis. Here, we share the 6 known specialist species found in our garden and suggest Pacific Northwest native host plants to include for them in your garden.
  • In cooperation with 10-Minute University, and funded by the Clackamas County Master Gardener Association, these briefs will help you translate research findings into sustainable gardening practices.
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  • The Garden Ecology Lab Briefs are supported in part by a Gray & Norrene Thompson Community Projects Grant, 10-Minute University, and the Clackamas County Master Gardener Association.
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