Bee Watch

There are over 4,000 species of native bees in North America. Together they form the most important group of pollinators as they intentionally collect pollen to feed their young. Pollinators provide an important link in our environment by moving pollen between flowers and ensuring the growth of seeds and fruits. Like many species of wildlife, pollinator populations are in decline. These animals face many threats including habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation; climate change diseases; and overuse of pesticides. As native vegetation is replaced by roadways, manicured lawns, crops, and non-native gardens, pollinators lose the food, nesting, and overwintering sites that are critical for their survival.

Community scientists can monitor bees to yield useful data that may guide conservation efforts for pollinators.  Currently our understanding of the types of bees that use various habitats both urban and rural is limited.   Further, making observations about bees in our community can provide critical information to scientists and land managers developing conservation research and plans. This project provides an opportunity to contribute to nationwide efforts to establish baseline information on population diversity and status of these important insects.

For this project, community scientists are trained to be ambassadors that promote the conservation of pollinators. Participants will conduct stationary surveys of pollinators at bee boxes and surrounding habitat in predetermined parks and/or open space reserves by taking pictures of bees and other pollinator insects and filling out a short survey. No experience is needed! Here is a link about how to take photos of identifiable photos of bees/insects. Each community scientist may visit one or many bee boxes of their choice from April 1st-November 1st to conduct surveys of bees. Observations of bees and other pollinators are then uploaded to iNaturalist.  We will use these observations to determine how many species (diversity) of pollinators we have in our area as well as their locations (distribution). We can also use this information inform future management actions. For example, more pollinator friendly plants can be installed in areas where few bees/pollinators are detected and there is opportunity learn about how pollinator garden design impacts pollinator use of the landscape.

To view a training webinar on how to participate in Bee Watch, click here. The use of iNaturalist, a community-science web platform, is critical and required for this project as well as Survey123. Survey123 can be downloaded as an application on your smart phone or accessed directly through the web. Here is a link to a pre-recorded training on how to make observations in iNaturalist on your phone, as well as on the web. We will not be facilitating coordinated counts and you can simply make observations while on a walk or hike at your leisure if it the observation is at a designated bee box. Happy pollinator spotting wherever you go!

Bumblebee on purple flowers
Bumblebee on pink flower
Hairy Bee on Sunflower
Hairy Bee
Longhorn Bee on Yellow Flower
Longhorn Bee
Sand Wasp on Milkweed Plant
Sand Wasp

How to Participate:

  • Visit a bee box in one of the sites listed below.
    • Open space reserve sites with pollinator-friendly plantings:
      • Hulls Gulch – Red-Winged Blackbird
      • Chief Eagle Eye – Hayes Street Entrance
      • Foothills East – Riparian Area
    • Urban pollinator garden sites:
      • Warm Springs Park
      • Bernardine Quinn Riverside Park
      • Garden City Pollinator Garden
      • The WaterShed
      • Jim Hall Foothills Learning Center Pollinator Garden
    • Urban island pollinator gardens sites:
      • Terry Day Park
      • Comba Park - BUGS
      • Lake Hazel Library
    • Open space reserve sites with shrub plantings:
      • Camel’s Back Reserve – Front side
      • Hillside to Hollow – near main trailhead entrance
      • Military Reserve – near Veterans Cemetery
  • Choose any day that is sunny, warm, and calm. These weather conditions are important, as many insects don’t like flying when it’s cold, raining or very windy. If it rains, wait at least an hour and for the sun to come out before doing your observation. Some pollinators don’t fly in strong winds, so make sure it is calm or only lightly breezy when you perform your observation.
  • Observe the bee box for 15 minutes and take pictures of bees that appear different and are coming in and out of the box.
  • If you don’t see any bees using the box, that’s okay. Expand the search area up to 50 ft. Check out any flowers in the area and take a few pictures of pollinators that you see!
  • Upload your pictures to iNaturalist (Boise Pollinators).
  • Take the survey either on your smart phone or web browser to tell us about your observations!

You can take multiple separate pictures of different bees using the box or surrounding area. If you do multiple observations, make sure to enter each as a separate submission. You may also upload multiple photos of an individual bee to one observation. This can be useful in identifying the species.

Bee Box Location Map

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