Those bees play an important role in pollinating wild and cultivated plants, he said. About two-thirds of the food available today comes either directly or indirectly from plants pollinated by bees, he said.
Recent declines in bee populations make identifying species more important than ever, Gonzalez said. If scientists can recognize the species that exist, they'll be able to tell which ones are being affected by changes in their environments.
“If we don't know what is out there, we cannot quantify any impact,” he said.
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Continent home to many species
Victor Gonzalez, a faculty member in the Southwestern Oklahoma State University biology department, and a scientist from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Bee Biology and Systematics Laboratory in Logan, Utah, discovered the bee as part of a project that looks at native bees in North America. The continent is home to about 4,000 species of bees, Gonzalez said, and up to 40 percent of them are likely to be undiscovered species.