The first global accounting of bee species in 100 years has turned up 2,000 new species, making bee species more numerous than mammals and birds combined.
It's a rare bit of good news for bees, which, along with other pollinators, have been suffering sometimes mysterious and often worrying declines.
A 2006 National Academy of Sciences report warned that continued declines in populations of North American pollinators, particularly European honey bees and native bumblebees, could threaten 75% of all flowering plants, including most food crops.
The American Museum of Natural History census was led by John S. Ascher, and it revealed details about 19,200 species, including 500 that make honey. The data is available on the Web at Discover Life a big database of basic information about many species.
The checklist project is part of the museum's Bee Database Project, which since 2006 has sought to document where bees live and what plants they pollinate or feed on. One goal of the project is to identify species that might take the place of the honey bee, should Colony Collapse Disorder continue to decimate the pollinator. Now, honey bees, native to Europe, are trucked all over the United States to pollinate food crops. Without pollination, an estimated one in three bites of food would be lost.
Most bees are solitary, parasitic or lack the social nature of honey bees, so they would make poor replacements. Many don't make honey, or live in hives, but they do pollinate native plants and some crops.
Colony Collapse Disorder is an unexplained affliction that has caused bees to abandon hives in great numbers in the last couple of years, worrying many of an impending collapse in the honey bee population, already taxed by various parasites and illnesses.
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.