"Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea) with European honey bee (Apis mellifera)"
Color Pencil drawing - © Bruce A. Morrison
I've read that there are around 4000 species of native bees in North America (http://bugguide.net/node/view/8267) - that seems like an awful lot! I believe I have read that there are around 30-40 species of Bumble Bees in Iowa...and many many more species of other less conspicuous native bees in addition to that.
But most of us think of the "honey bee" when bees are mentioned. I remember my grand father bringing us gallon jars of honey when I was a kid...he had a bee keeper keeping their hives on his farm and they'd give him honey for "rent". I was a honey crazed kid - loved the stuff! I'm afraid I still do but have to moderate my love for it a bit now. But the main reason I wanted to have someone keep their honey bees here on our acreage was to help pollinate our berry and fruit tree crops. Even then, they still get plenty of competition from the native bees and other pollinators.
Our pastures are "native" pastures with plenty of native species of gasses and forbs (wildflowers). Here is where the native bees seem to really shine...I see many types of Bumble Bees there as well as a small Metallic Green Bee that I particularly enjoy watching - just a gorgeous little bee!
But the European Honey Bees like the wildflowers in the pastures as well, especially when the garden plants have finished flowering or haven't cycled to new blooms yet. One flower the Honey Bees especially like are the Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea); this forb is also a favorite of Bumble Bees. When deciding to do a color drawing of the Purple Prairie Clover, I intended just drawing the flower/plant itself but when going through my files for a subject to draw from, I noticed a lot of photos with bees! So...in tribute to my sweet tooth and love for honey - I included a Honey Bee.
Here's to ALL of our pollinators - may we have a long and ever lasting relationship, and may it always be a good one!