Over the past 20 years, the rusty bumblebee population has declined 87 percent due to habitat loss, pesticide use, and disease. This fuzzy bee, native to the continental United States, gets its name from the rusty spot on its back.
These bumblebees pollinate the fruits and vegetables we eat, unlike the solitary Gulf Coast bee, which collects pollen from a single plant – the coastal plain honeycomb head, a member of the family. asters. You could say they are specialists, while bumblebees and rusty-spot bees are generalists.
Bees – a European import to the Americas – and their colony collapse issues are getting a lot of attention, but native bees that have their own ecological roles face similar and perhaps additional threats. The decline of native bees is a known problem and many efforts are being made to save them; however, the full extent of the problem is not well understood.
“While regional studies have tracked the decline of native bees,” said S. Hollis Woodard, entomologist at the University of California at Riverside, “there has been no nationally coordinated effort to monitor these pollinators. “
Dr Woodard and his colleagues explained this problem in an article published this month in the journal Biological Conservation, and proposed a new approach to monitor native bees. But she and scientists at institutions across the United States are going beyond studying the problem. They also began an effort to collect better data on native bee populations, as well as efforts to conserve them, as part of the U.S. Native Bee Surveillance Research Coordination Network. The project, supported by the US Department of Agriculture, will train members of the public in research and monitoring of wild bees.
“The data we collect will help identify conservation efforts that are working,” said Dr Woodard.
Zach Portman, a bee taxonomist at Minnesota State University who is active in the bee monitoring program but was not involved in Dr. Woodard’s last article, said in a blog post for the network that a new methodology is needed to track native bees. Existing programs are often blocked by large numbers of specimens that make it difficult for conservationists to identify or assess populations of individual species.
“There are a lot of good possibilities that include monitoring habitats, monitoring focal plants to detect changes in ecosystems, or monitoring a smaller subset of species such as bumblebees,” a- he declared.
The Bee Watch Network invites citizen scientists to participate and pairs them with experts who will identify photos and data collected by contributors, which Dr Woodward hopes to avoid the problems highlighted by Dr Portman.
It’s a bit like the Great Backyard Bird Count, where birders of all ages take a count every February to collect data on bird populations.
“We have learned a lot from scientists in the birding community,” said Dr. Woodard. “We hope that people of all ages and backgrounds will participate in monitoring local bees in their area.”
The bee count will run until 2023 and the program encourages participants to register on its website or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We made it easier to collect data,” said Dr Woodard. “Once you’ve signed up, you’ll receive an email from a coordinator in your area and an app to use for uploading photos and basic information about where the photos were taken.”
Scientists working with the program then identify the bees in the photos and record the information for their database.
Dr. Woodard expects the program to evolve over time. The website will post new information and a series of events will be listed soon.
“This is a new direction for my lab,” said Dr. Woodard. “It’s exciting that we will soon be collecting data from a wide variety of ecosystems across the country.