Beyond Black and Yellow: The Stunning Colors of America’s Native Bees

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If you don’t look for bees, you probably don’t see them. At least not many of them. Sure, you might notice a honeybee, or a bumblebee, the generic names we use for the most well-known species — but there are more than 4,000 bee species in North America alone.

Some are as large as bumblebees, and others smaller than a grain of rice. Most live solitary rather than hive lives; many are blue or green, not striped black and yellow. Their incredible diversity goes largely unrecognized — but not to Sam Droege.

As head of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Bee Inventory and Monitoring program, Droege spends his days capturing bees, taking their pictures, and learning all he can about creatures responsible for pollinating much of the vegetal world.

“We don’t know much about these other species, even though they are lovely in their many forms, and very diverse. Just the sizes and shapes and colors are awe-inspiring,” said Droege, who on the following pages introduces WIRED to his bees.

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