Grand Staircase-Escalante is home to a rich assemblage of native bees, an often-overlooked part of Utah’s wildlife.
“These wild bees are much better pollinators than honeybees. For example, there's these bees that come out in the spring, they're metallic blue, called mason bees. Some studies show that two mason bees in an orchard can do the same amount of work as 100 honeybees. It's not only protecting them for their beauty or their diversity in the landscape, but they also do have a direct impact to us that benefits us in our gardens," said Dr. Joseph Wilson.
Wilson, an associate Utah State University professor, studies native bees. He and his collaborator, Dr. Olivia Carril, were recently featured in a short documentary about these insects called “The Bees of Grand Staircase-Escalante”.
Utah boasts one of the most diverse native bee communities in the United States, and recent downsizing of protected lands, like in the case of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, has the potential to harm these native pollinators. But, Wilson said, with appropriate planning, humans and bees can coexist.
“If we can consider these bees in our future plans” said Wilson, “we can move forward with the other activities that we deem necessary, as long as we're considering the biology of these bees and the needs of these bee communities.”
To do this, Wilson said people need to learn about native bees.
“We need to do a better job at educating people about what a bee is, because as soon as people learn about them they can start doing things both in their yards and in their communities. When we start recognizing these different facts about bees, then we can start making an effort to save them," Wilson said.