Celebrating World Bee Day: The Cuckoo Bee

May 20 : World Bee Day: The Cuckoo Bee
Reading Time: 3 minutes

May 20: World Bee Day: The Cuckoo Bee. Image: Unsplash

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Celebrating World Bee Day: The Cuckoo Bee

May 20 is World Bee Day, a day to raise awareness about the importance of bees and other pollinators to our planet’s ecosystem. Bees and other pollinators pollinate approximately one-third of global food crops. Without these important insects, many of the foods we rely on, such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts, would not exist.

Unfortunately, bees are experiencing many threats to survival, such as climate change, habitat loss and fragmentation, invasive plants and bees, the increased use of pesticides, and low genetic diversity.

There are over 20,000 species of bees in the world that are classified into seven recognized biological families. Some species of bees, such as honeybees, bumblebees, and stingless bees, live socially in colonies, while others, such as mason bees or carpenter bees, are solitary. The main difference is that solitary bees have no hierarchy, meaning no queen bees.

There are also some species of bees which are not traditionally pollinator bees. The Cuckoo bees are groups of bees that lay their eggs in the nests of other bee species. The Cuckoo bees do not collect pollen and nectar for their own offspring but will rely on the host bees to provide for their larvae.

They lay their eggs in the nests of other bees and rely on the hosts to collect food and feed their young. The Cuckoo bees are named after the Cuckoo bird, which also forms a relationship with another type of bird (usually songbirds) and tricks them into raising their young.

Because Cuckoo bees don’t have to collect pollen and nectar for their young, they don’t have any pollen-collecting hairs on their bodies. They often do not look like “classic” bees and are sometimes mistaken for wasps. They have a more robust and thicker body shape compared to other bees. The colors of the Cuckoo bees will vary as well. Some of them have bright, contrasting colors, while others might have a metallic sheen.

Cuckoo bees can be found on every continent except Antarctica. They are found in urban areas, forests, woodlands, and heaths. Their habitats will mirror the host bees, and they will often be found looking for the nests of other bees. They may invade nests in the ground, in stems, or in holes in wood or walls.

The Cuckoo bees represent about 15% of the world’s bees. And while they don’t collect pollen for their offspring, they often visit flowers for nectar as a food source.

Even though the Cuckoo bees are not active pollinators, the presence of these unique bee species helps maintain genetic diversity within bee populations. Genetic diversity is essential for the adaptation and resilience of species in the face of environmental changes.

Cuckoo bees are also able to regulate the bumble bee communities. They can prevent host species from dominating less competitive bumble bees in the same ecosystem.

There are many ways to protect the bees in and around your area, not only on World Bee Day but every day. Some of these ways include:

  • Visit a beekeeper.
  • Set up a pollinator farm on your balcony, terrace, or garden.
  • Use pesticides that do not harm bees (or eliminate usage of pesticides altogether)
  • Buy honey and other hive products from your nearest local beekeeper.
  • Cut grass on meadows only after the nectar-bearing plants have finished blooming.
  • Donate to a charity that helps toward bee conservation.

We all play a part in helping to protect the bees, whether they are pollinators or not. Bees make up an important part of our biodiversity, and it is important that we continue to protect and preserve them.

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