Stewardship Week to focus on bees

Michelle Turner
Jones SWCD

     With the current pandemic, conservation celebrations will look much different than in years past. Although there may not be any events, fairs, or rallies, we still have an opportunity to celebrate our planet’s natural resources by being creative in our own backyards.

     The National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) and thousands of dedicated conservationists will be celebrating Stewardship Week, April 26-May 3.

     This year marks the 65th celebration of NACD Stewardship Week and honors the theme Where Would We BEE Without Pollinators?

     In Iowa, the most important pollinators are bees. The species people are most familiar with, the honeybee, is not a native species but was introduced to the United States for its ability to produce honey. More important, though, are the native bees like the bumblebee and mason bees, who are more efficient pollinators.

     In the spirit of social distancing it would seem appropriate to draw attention to our native bees, as most of them are solitary bees. Solitary bees are not simply bees who have left the hive and are now alone. There are over 200 species of solitary bee and, as the name suggests, they live alone, although in truth they often nest close to one another. They do not produce honey, do not have a queen and do not live in hives.

     Because solitary bees do not have a store of honey to protect, they are non-aggressive, meaning they are safe around pets and children. The males generally have no sting and the females will only sting if handled roughly.

     Solitary bees generally emerge from their nests in the spring. Males emerge first, and after feeding they hang around the nest waiting for the females. Once mating is complete, the males die. The females will begin the process of nesting and laying eggs. The eggs hatch into larvae, which feed on pollen and nectar that the female has stored within each nest. The larvae develop and pupate, emerging the following spring and repeating the cycle.

     These native bees are not only important in Iowa, but they provide pollination for one-third of the food we eat worldwide. The United Kingdom draws attention to these busy pollinators by celebrating Solitary Bee Week at the end of June. It is an annual week of action and education, to raise awareness about our incredible solitary bees. They challenge the public to “earn their stripes” by conducting simple activities and then sharing them with the public.

     In solidarity with the solitary bee, let’s put on our striped shirts and do something for our little friends, like leaving small mud puddle areas in our yards for nest material, planting patches of native flowers, drill random holes in stumps for housing, or reserve some brush piles for habitat. Then, earn your stripes by posting a picture of your project (or striped shirt) on the Jones SWCD Facebook page at and let us share your efforts.

     NACD Stewardship Week is one of the largest national programs to promote natural resource conservation. Celebrated annually since 1955 between the last Sunday in April and the first Sunday in May, NACD Stewardship Week reminds us of our individual responsibilities to care for natural resources.



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