Native Bees

Long Horned Bee on Gallardia Flower
Long Horned Bee on Gaillardia Flower (Photo by Adrienne Rosenberg)

Pollinators are essential to life on Earth. They are a part of the sexual reproduction of many flowering plants; in fact, more than 75% of the world’s 115 principal crop species are dependent on or benefit from animal pollinated crops. Many of our native flowers in the desert Southwest depend on particular pollinators as well as many of our food crops on farms. Bees are considered the best insect pollinators due to their intentional gathering of pollen for their nests. Across the world, there are around 20,000 species of bees, and North America has around 4,000. In New Mexico alone, we have about 1,000 species—making the state one of the more diverse in the nation. In contrast, New Mexico is one of the least studied states in terms of our native bees thus making it a sort of "black box" of information.

One research project is working to help lift the "lid" off of the box by studying native bees at NMSU SASC Alcalde. According to Adrienne Rosenberg, Northern New Mexico—with its well vegetated watersheds fed by acequias, desert landscapes, and small farms—presents interesting habitats to research. At the Science Center's farm, she is comparing alfalfa with a seeded native wildflower plot using the Xerces Streamlined Bee Monitoring Protocol for Assessing Pollinator Habitat and bee traps in each plot. She is gathering data throughout the growing season and will compare bee diversity and species that are foraging in each plot for three seasons. Her larger vision is to associate native pollinator habitat restoration with acequia rights conservation. In 2019, the Xerces Society of Invertebrate Conservation held a workshop at SASC Alcalde where Adrienne presented her research. In addition, NMSU Los Lunas Science Center is conducting extensive studies on native bees (links provided below).

Additional NMSU Publications

How-to Guides and Circulars

  • Guide H 172_Backyard Beneficial Insects of New Mexico
    This guide will help you learn how to identify beneficial insects with identification tips and photos of beneficial insects found in New Mexico. Beneficial insects include pollinators and natural enemies of pest insects, which include insects that prey upon other insects and insects that parasitize other insects.
  • Backyard Beneficial Insects in New Mexico
    This guide will help you learn how to identify beneficial insects with identification tips and photos of beneficial insects found in New Mexico. Beneficial insects include pollinators and natural enemies of pest insects, which include insects that prey upon other insects and insects that parasitize other insects.
  • Pocket Guide to the Native Bees of New Mexico
    Research indicates that native bees can often fill the 'pollination gap' when honeybees are scarce, and there is increasing interest in growing flowering plants to help sustain our native bees, honeybees, and other beneficial insects. New Mexico State University and the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s NM Plant Materials Center are collaborating in testing more than 200 species of (mostly native) plants for their survival, ease of cultivation, and ability to attract and sustain pollinators and other beneficial insects. This publication, funded by the Western Integrated Pest Management Center, is intended as an introductory guide to the main groups of native bees that you might expect to see visiting such plants. Information on techniques for enhancing bee habitat is also included.

External Publications

  • Plant Materials Technical Note No. 71: Pollinator Plant Recommendations for New Mexico
    There has been considerable interest in creating habitat that will help conserve both native wild bees and domesticated honeybees. Until recently, however, there have been no state-specific guidelines for those wishing to install pollinator plantings appropriate to New Mexico conditions. To address this need, staff from the Los Lunas Plant Materials Center and the NMSU Agricultural Science Center at Los Lunas conducted field trials from 2010-2015 to develop the current recommendations for plants that will sustain bees (and other beneficial insects) throughout the growing season. During the project, a total of 380 plant species were tested, including 260 herbaceous perennials (215 native and 45 introduced), 85 annuals and biennials (60 natives and 25 introduced), and 35 native shrubs. Additional details of the pollinator project, including the trial sites, are given in Dreesen and Grasswitz (2013).
  • Xerces Society: Pollinators and Climate Change: Climate-Smart Agricultural Habitat
    You can take several actions to alleviate the effects of climate change on pollinators. This fact sheet provides an overview of strategies to reduce the impacts of drought, increased temperatures, and frequent heat waves in agricultural lands. Although this fact sheet is centered on California, many lessons are more broadly applicable, and can provide a useful jumping-off point for climate-smart habitat planning for other regions.
  • Xerces Society: Common Organic-Allowed Pesticides
    Organic farms can be an important asset in protecting pollinators and other insects beneficial to agriculture, such as predators and parasitoids of crop pests. Unfortunately, however, pesticides allowed for use in organic agriculture can cause harm to bees and beneficial insects. While pest management programs should incorporate cultural, mechanical and other practices to prevent and manage pests, sometimes pesticides are the strategy of choice. There are many considerations when choosing between different pesticide options, including efficacy, specificity, cost, and risks to human health and the environment. This fact sheet is intended to be a quick reference to help you select and use organically-approved pesticides with the least impact on bees and other beneficial insects.
  • Xerces Society: Best Management Practices for Pollinators on Western Rangelands
    Rangelands comprise the majority of public lands in the western United States, spanning a huge diversity of ecological regions, habitat types, and elevations—from grasslands to sagebrush steppe to pinyon-juniper woodlands to mountain meadows—and supporting some of the highest diversity of bee species in the country, as well as many butterflies, moths, and other pollinators. Many pollinator species in the West are declining and at-risk due to stressors including habitat loss, pesticides, disease, and the effects of climate change—and a lack of pollinators on rangelands can have major ecological and economic impacts.
  • Xerces Society: Cover Cropping for Pollinators and Beneficial Insects
    This 16-page bulletin will help you use cover crops to encourage populations of pollinators and beneficial insects on your farm while you address your other resource concerns. It begins with a broad overview of pollinator and beneficial insect ecology, then describes cover crop selection and management, how to make cover crops work on your farm, and helpful and proven crop rotations. It will also touch on the limitations of cover crops and pesticide harm reduction, among other topics.
  • Xerces Society: Farming for Bees
    Farming for Bees outlines ways to protect and enhance habitat for native crop pollinators in the farm landscape. Containing a wealth of information about common groups of native bees, their habitat requirements, and conservation strategies to increase their numbers on farms.

Additional Links

  • Xerces Society: Pollinator Conservation Resources: Southwest Region
    Welcome to our Pollinator Conservation Resources for the Southwest Region! Here you'll find region-specific collections of publications, native seed vendors, and other resources to aid in planning, establishing, restoring, and maintaining pollinator habitat—as well as materials to help you learn about the species of invertebrates and native plants you might encounter. For more resources, see our Publications Library or learn about our Pollinator Conservation Program.