WHAT’S THE BUZZ? — Mason bees (pictured hatching) are cavity nesters and can be raised in managed nest blocks. Agriculture is using mason bees for pollination as honey bees continue to decline.

Local bees need help — that’s one of the reasons behind the next talk at the Cloverdale Regional Library, sponsored by the UC Master Gardeners Program.

The talk provides an introduction to Sonoma County’s native bees, as well as advice to help people garden in ways that encourage bee patronage.

“For most people when you say bees, they think of honeybees — but California has 1,600 native bees,” said Janet Calhoon, the class’ speaker. “They’re amazing. The range in size from about an eighth of an inch to carpenter bees, which are about an inch and a half. A lot of them are in trouble because of pollution and climate change, so (this) is just a program to make people aware and hopefully get them to start planting for native bees.”

According to Calhoon, urban gardens may be the best way to help encourage an increase in bee populations.

While the talk will go into further detail about what species of plants draw in bees, Calhoon said that plants native to the area work well, since native bees evolved with the plants. She also recommended that those planting for the sake of bees consider growing species of plants that flower at different times of the year, since different species of bees emerge at different times.

While some people may be hesitant to willingly attract bees to their yard, Calhoon said that there’s nothing to be afraid of — bees just have a bad rap.

“With a lot of our bees, even though all female bees can sting, most of them are so small that they can’t penetrate our skin — and they’re very shy,” she said. “They’re not aggressive at all.

“Some people think that yellow jackets are bees, they’re not — they’re wasps. So sometimes bees get a bad rep for things they don’t do.”

Those looking to do more than grow specific kinds of bee-attracting plant life will also be given information on how to build a bee house, or a manmade cavity for the 30% of cavity nesting bees (the other 70% nests in the ground).

For Calhoon, bee appreciation turned “from a hobby into an obsession.” She’s hoping that others see the beauty in the insects as well.

Introduction to Native Bees is being held at the Cloverdale Regional Library on Sept. 14 from 10:30 to 11:45 a.m. According to Calhoon, participants will receive lists of information that will be useful when planting a garden with bees in mind.

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