Busy Bees of CVNP

August 10, 2017

Imagine: You’re enjoying a hike through the woods and meadows of CVNP, basking in the sunshine, when all of a sudden, a loud buzzing fills your ears. Don’t swat! Chances are it’s one of our many local bees buzzing by.

Despite many people’s fears about these flying insects, most native bees are relatively gentle unless provoked. As pollinators, they help move pollen among plants and play a critical role in fruit and seed production. Without bees, we wouldn’t have foods like apples, peaches, potatoes, almonds, coffee, or chocolate!

You’ve probably heard of the honey bee, which is a very important pollinator but actually a non-native species in the United States. But are you familiar with native bee species in the Cuyahoga Valley? Here are a few to watch for around the national park.

Leaf Cutting Bee

Leaf cutting bees use their mouths to cut circular pieces out of leaves, which can measure up to a half-inch across. They then transport these leaf circles to their nests and use them to line the inner walls. Nests are created using above-ground, pre-existing holes, such as those made by beetles tunneling into dead wood.

You’re most likely to spot these industrious creatures in wooded areas with fallen or decomposing trees, such as on the Wetmore Trail system or the Towpath Trail near Beaver Marsh.

Carpenter Bee

Carpenter bees construct their nests by tunneling into wood. They do not eat the wood, but instead discard it or re-use it to build partitions between “rooms” in the maze of the nest’s wooden tunnels. During the cold winter months, carpenter bees hole up inside these cozy nests to stay warm.

Watch for carpenter bees near manmade, wood shelters, such as the Ledges and Octagon Shelters or Happy Days Lodge.

Bumble Bee

Bumble bees are active in cool, cloudy weather when most other bees stay at home. You’ll most likely hear a bumble bee before you see it, because they pollinate flowers by “buzz pollination.” This means the bee uses a rapid vibrating motion to release large amounts of pollen from a flower at once.

You can find bumble bees in most places in the park, but especially in meadows and open areas with wildflowers, such as the parking area near Brandywine Falls, in Howe Meadow, or around Indigo Lake.

So what’s NOT a bee? Wasps and hornets are sometimes confused for bees, but you can tell the difference primarily by the absence of fuzzy, pollen-carrying hairs on wasps and hornets. Bees are also typically much less aggressive than wasps and hornets and stick mostly to flowers.

As you enjoy these final weeks of summer, keep an eye—and an ear!—out for our friendly local bees.

Want to help Ohio bees as a citizen scientist? You can help monitor and record information about CVNP’s bees through iNaturalist and the Ohio Bee Atlas project. Learn more & get involved >