Chicago Botanic Garden

World Environment Day Programs

 'Meet the Scientist' cart

PHOTO: Rebecca Tonietto in the field

PHOTO:beeWe may think all bees live communally in hives or colonies, but many are solitary. A single female may make her nest in a hole in the ground or in rotted wood.

To create a hospitable home for bees, leave a few broken branches in your backyard and avoid tilling all of your garden. Growing native flowering plants or establishing a green roof are also great ways to attract beneficial bees.You can even build a bee condo—it’s simple!
         ILLUSTRATION: bee condo


Visit beekeeper Ann Stevens on the Fruit & Vegetable Island for answers to your questions on hive bee life, beekeeping, and current issues with bees.

"Bee Smart: Learn More About Native Bees"

Becky Tonietto, Plant Biology and Conservation Ph.D. student
1 to 4 p.m. (20 to 30 minutes)
Grainger Gallery

Did you know that there are more than 20,000 species of bees worldwide? That’s more than all the mammals, amphibians, and reptiles combined! You may be familiar with bumblebees and honeybees, but the state of Illinois boasts 500 species of native bees, including metallic green and blue bees that look nothing like the fuzzy yellow and black bees in your mind’s eye!

Join Becky Tonietto, a Chicago Botanic Garden/Northwestern University Plant Biology and Conservation Ph.D. program student, to see thousands of specimens in her collection. Bees are critically important in pollinating native plants, and Tonietto will describe the sometimes intricate flower/bee relationship — for instance, some flowers require “buzz pollination,” in which the bee must grab onto the flower's anthers and vibrate at a particular frequency to release pollen.

Tonietto has collected bees from all around the Chicago region, including green roofs, city parks, and restored prairies, to evaluate the best habitats for native bees. She has found that bees can thrive in urban environments if we humans help instead of harm their habitats.