City Cast

3 Questions About Bees With the Xerces Society

Rachel Monahan
Posted on June 1   |   Updated on June 6
A bee on a yellow flower.

Bees help pollinate flowers and many of our foods. (Kay Dropiewski/Getty Images)

With a spring full of flowers, it seems like the right time for a conversation about bees. The City Cast Portland podcast talked with Rich Hatfield, a senior conservation biologist with the Xerces Society, who’s studied native bees for 25 years. Here’s an excerpt of that conversation:

What is the threat to our ecosystem if we don't take care of bees? What’s at stake?

“Ultimately, we're talking about food security: for us and also food for other wildlife that eats plants. It could have huge cascading effects, without question. One out of three bites of food that you eat comes from a plant that was pollinated by a bee.”

What would you say to reassure people that when you see a bee, you don't need to freak out over a bee sting? Should people be afraid of bees?

“No, definitely not! The first thing is our native bees, for the most part, don't have a stinger that's even strong enough to pierce your skin. Our native bees are tiny. A lot of them are ant-sized or a little bit bigger.”

What can people in the Portland area do to protect bees?

“The biggest threat here in the Portland area and in Oregon is probably pesticide use. There's a lot of chemicals on the market right now that are broad-spectrum and systemic. It means that it's actually absorbed by the tissues of the plant and then expressed in the plant, which means that every time a bee eats or drinks from that plant, they're actually getting a microdose of an insecticide …. We a hundred percent feel that these chemicals have no place in an ornamental landscape.”

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