For those interested in learning more about bee identification, the UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab has been utilizing the book Common Bees of Western North America published in 2023 by authors Olivia Messinger Carril and Joseph S. Wilson. This book provides an excellent introduction to bee biology and anatomy for individuals of all entomological experience levels, especially beginners, who are hoping to familiarize themselves with the various bee genera of western North America. The images contained in this book are of incredibly high quality, displaying the most important characteristics of bee identification. Two incredibly useful features of this book are the “Quick Reference Guide to Bees of Western North America” which provides readers with a helpful starting point to identify bees based on color and size, along with an actual representative size and shape silhouette found beside each species account throughout the book. Though the description of bee genera is very detailed and inclusive, it is important to note that the authors chose species they found to be most representative of the genera and do not include all of the roughly 1600 species found in California, let alone the more than 3000 species found in western North America. For the non-included species of bees, the authors provide plenty of selected references for the more experienced audience to identify bees at a more advanced level. To aid in general bee identification with a microscope, the highly detailed and simple-to-understand dichotomous key at the back of the book has been a useful step-by-step tool in helping researchers identify bees to genus.
A microscope is not necessary to enjoy the many images in this book and familiarize yourself with the great diversity of bee genera in western North America, but is necessary for putting this book into practice. The level of identification performed at the Urban Bee Lab requires a binocular stereo microscope, which can be purchased relatively inexpensively online at Forestry Suppliers and Ward’s Science.
Credit: Jerid Vega <firstname.lastname@example.org> and Gordon Frankie <email@example.com>