Science & Technology

Book Creates Buzz: Aggies Publish Guide to North American Bees

Joseph Wilson, left, assistant professor of biology at USU's Tooele campus, and Aggie alum Olivia Messinger Carril ’00 MS’06 are authors of an engaging new field guide to North American bees.

What’s your bee I.Q.? Perhaps you think all bees live in hives with a queen and produce copious quantities of delicious honey. It’s also likely you avoid them like the plague because you fear a painful stinger getting lodged in your skin, if you disturb one of the feisty little beasts.

Well, if you’re thinking of honeybees, you’re mostly correct. But for the majority of the North American continent’s 4,000 other bee species, you’ve got it all wrong.

“Honeybees are actually an anomaly,” says Joseph Wilson, assistant professor of biology at Utah State University’s Tooele campus. “Most bees don’t live in large hives, don’t make honey and they can sting you multiple times.”

With USU alum Olivia Messinger Carril (Biology ’00, MS’06), Wilson has published an engaging guide to introduce readers to the varied bee species found between American shores, while dispelling common myths and offering tips for telling the winged creatures apart. The Bees in Your Backyard, released by Princeton University Press in fall 2015, offers more than 900 images (most taken by the authors) to aid novices and experts alike in identifying and learning about these fascinating pollinators.

Wilson admits a penchant for tiny bees of the Perdita genus, while Carril, who earned a doctorate from Southern Illinois University in 2013 and resides in Santa Fe, N.M, favors Mexican immigrants, such as the Exomalopsis species with their distinctive black-and-white-banded abdomens.

Within their book, Carril and Wilson offer tips on how to how to attract bees to your own backyard. (Hint: one of the most bee-friendly plants is the annual sunflower.)

While you’re enjoying learning about all those bees, be on the lookout for unidentified species, say the authors.

“Previously unknown species are frequently ‘discovered,’” Wilson says. “You might be the next naturalist to stumble upon an as-yet-unnamed bee.”

Related links:

USU Biologists Discover Large Mimicry Complex in North America,” Utah State Today

USU Department of Biology

USU College of Science

Contact: Joseph S. Wilson, 435-632-9791,

Writer: Mary-Ann Muffoletto, 435-797-3517,

'The Bees in Your Backyard' introduces readers to more than 4,000 bee species of North America.


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