Native Hawaiian bees topic of panel discussion

The Friends of Haleakala National Park will present a panel discussion about the survival of native Hawaiian yellow-faced bees at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Hannibal Tavares Community Center’s poolside multipurpose room in Pukalani.

Panelists Karl Magnacca, a University of Hawaii-Hilo researcher, and Haleakala National Park biologist Raina Kaholoa’a will discuss the significance of Haleakala as a refuge for endemic pollinators and explain the challenges posed by new invasive species. The program is free and open to the public.

Magnacca received his doctorate in insect systematics in 2005 from Cornell University, based on his study of the evolution of the Hawaiian native Hylaeus yellow-faced bees. Kaholoa’a monitors native and non-native bee populations in the national park.

Hawaiian yellow-faced bees are extraordinary examples of evolutionary radiation, believed to have descended from a single female that arrived in the ancient archipelago millions of years ago. The resulting more than 60 distinct Hylaeus species serve as important pollinators in native ecosystems but have received scant attention in conservation studies.

“Most people, and even many scientists, don’t realize that we have a huge diversity of native bees in Hawaii – 62 species from the Big Island to Nihoa,” says Magnacca. “Some of the rarest ones live down on the coast, and people would see them every day on the beach if the native plants were still there.”

Although a scientist in the early 1900s called Hawaiian yellow-faced bees “almost the most ubiquitous of any Hawaiian insects,” Magnacca has demonstrated that seven species – Hylaeus anthracinus, H. longiceps, H. assimulans, H. facilis, H. hilaris, H. kuakea and H.mana – are in imminent danger of going extinct.

More information about the Friends of Haleakala National Park can be found at www.fhnp.org.