While honeybees get all the glory, there’s a lot less buzz about their counterparts on campus: native bees. Yet native bees keep just as busy making UCLA’s flowers bloom.
That’s why the Bruin Beekeepers club, founded in 2018, is taking both native bees and honeybees under its wings. Club members strive to maintain healthy bee populations on campus through education, habitat restoration and research.
The club hopes to raise awareness about the diverse bee population and the conservation of bees native to the area. In 2019, members built and installed a house for native bees — which tend to live in small nests — in the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden. They also manage honey hives on the roof of the Life Sciences building. Club members suit up in protective gear and check the hives every one to two weeks, making sure the bees have enough water and food, and checking for pests and diseases.
“I joined Bruin Beekeepers my freshman year because it was the most interesting club at the activities fair,” says Felicia Wang, a fourth-year psychobiology student. “I learned all these amazing things about honeybees and native bees, which I’d had no idea existed before. I developed a passion advocating for these bees.”
More than 1,600 native bee species have been identified in California. Unlike honeybees, native bees usually live solitary lives in wood, underground or in small crevices, instead of living together in large groups. Since native bees don’t need to defend a big hive, they tend to be less aggressive — and because they don’t need to feed large numbers of other bees, they don’t produce honey.
Native bees are effective pollinators. But their numbers may be dwindling due to disease, habitat loss and competition with honeybees — which the Bruin Beekeepers club hopes to change.
“We are in the final stages of planning the installation of smaller native bee hives in landscaped locations around campus,” says Bonny Bentzin, deputy chief sustainability officer at UCLA. That means a thriving native bee population could soon generate plenty of buzz, too.
Read more from UCLA Magazine's April 2022 issue.