Local Pollinators


Ever wondered what the differences are between some of the common pollinators we have here in Central Alberta?  This page will examine some of the characteristics of bees and wasps to help you identify them in your backyard.





Bumblebees are a very important pollinators and are often confused with honey bees.  They are larger, furrier and have more pronounced stripes than the honey bee and their nests are much smaller (100 - 400 members).  Bumblebees do not produce honey like a honeybee...they gather small amounts of nectar to feed the members of their nest and they don't store nectar long-term.  The bumblebee rarely stings or attacks and the nest will die out by the end of summer.  Some species of bumblebee are now extinct, so it's best not to disturb their nest if possible.


For more information visit: Hinterland Canada






Wasps are very common throughout North America and while very different from the honey bee, they too serve an important role as pollinator.   Wasps have a shiny, smooth body with bright yellow and deep black stripes across their abdomen.  The nests often appear in sheltered open spaces, made out of a paper-like material.  They behave much more aggressively than the common honey bee and are far more likely to sting.  While they are viewed as a pest for most people, the wasp can play some important roles in your garden.  


For more in-depth learning about wasps, visit Wikipedia.


Solitary Bees




There are 970 different bee species in Canada and solitary bees are the unsung heroes of the pollinator world - 90% of bee species are solitary bees! These bees often live in holes in wood, in reeds or most commonly in holes dug into the soil.  They only live one season and they live alone, not in colonies.  Solitary bees do not swarm and don't attack.  In fact, only the females can sting and their sting is very mild compared to the honey bee or the wasp.


Honey Bees




There are 7-12 species of Honey Bee worldwide.  Apis Mellifera, or the Western Honey Bee, is the most common of these species and can be found in colonies in your local beekeeper's apiaries or in urban areas managed on rooftops and in backyards.  These bees are eusocial meaning they exist in colonies led by a single female (or queen).  There are many thousands of workers which are also female and relatively few males, also known as "drones" which are involved only in reproduction.  The honey bee is furrier than the wasp and not as large or plump as the bumblebee.  They are not typically aggressive unless they are directly disturbed or the hive is being threatened.  Colonies will reproduce in the wild with a process known as swarming - half the population and the queen leave the hive to find a new home and the old hive raises a new queen to continue the hive.     


Learn more about the Western Honey Bee at Wikipedia.