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Native Bees of Washington State

A passionate naturalist and pioneer in native bee biology, Dr. Don Rolfs presented his own unique and beautiful photographs of native bees of Washington State. Seven years in the making, this fast-moving, profusely illustrated presentation on April 1st, 2016, was thoroughly enjoyed by both adults and children.

More than 600 beautiful species of native bees (not honeybees) pollinate the wildflowers of Washington’s wild land meadows. None live in hives. The vast majority are single moms who live and work alone during lives that last only a short summer season. Native bees are mostly unknown and poorly documented. There is no field guide to native bees; not anywhere. Using the links below, you can share in this fascinating presentation about these exquisite, but largely unknown native pollinators.

See photos from the event

Download the Native Bees handout by Don Rolfs

Watch video segments from the presentation:

Part 1: Song

Part 2: Introduction

Part 3: Overwintering and Anatomy

Part 4: Bee Stings, Coevolution, Pollen, Risks

Part 5: Foraging, Nectar Robbing, Mimics, Gaps

Part 6: Question & Answer

“Native bees are ideal citizens of the natural world,” Don Rolfs said. “For a few short weeks each summer, new adults are focused on one thing: assuring that there will be a ‘next generation’ of their kind. Then they die. Our survival depends on their successful life cycles, year after year, through the millennia.”

A lifelong naturalist, teacher, mountain climber, graphic artist, and skilled photographer, Dr. Don Rolfs grew up in the mountains and wilderness of Washington State. He has studied and collected insects in Europe, Turkey, Siberia, the Amazon Basin, and throughout the U.S.

His love for natural history began in 1948 when he spent the entire summer at his family’s remote wilderness cabin without running water, electricity, or phone service. Daily chores included chopping wood and carrying water from the nearby creek. Free time was mostly spent collecting insects, studying small animals and learning to live-trap them for closer study in an aquarium and in cages that he built. From early grade school, through college, dental school, and graduate school, all sorts of living creatures were collected; each to serve a time as an object of study in his room at home. Various insects, chipmunks, squirrels, gophers, kangaroo rats, pocket mice, deer mice, jumping mice, voles, packrats, rattlesnakes, spiders, and scorpions all served their time as captive-residents in his room; some for a few days, others for a few weeks, before being released back to their natural habitat. As a High School student, his butterfly and moth collection won a college scholarship in a state-wide science fair.

Undergraduate college was paid for by working summers as a USFS Smokejumper in the North Cascades of Washington. One summer it took the cooperative effort of the entire crew to satisfy the voracious hunger of Don’s captive shrew. Don’s undergraduate training was mostly in scientific subjects including formal classes in mammalogy, ornithology, ecology, botany, and both undergraduate and graduate-level training in photography. Don is a 2007 graduate of the American Museum of Natural History’s annual 10-day “Bee Course” at the Southwestern Research Station in Portal Arizona. Retired in 2005 from careers, first as a periodontist, then as a dental educator, Don now writes, conducts original research on native bees of Washington, and leads field seminars on native bee ecology.

bees, education, events, highland wonders, insects

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