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!