The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation recently partnered with several state organizations to create the Pacific Northwest Bumble Bee Atlas, a citizen science project to monitor bumble bee populations. I was fortunate to participate in a recent training in Wenatchee, Washington where I learned about bumble bee biology, identification, and survey techniques.
Graduates of the training are expected to adopt a “grid cell” where they will monitor bumble bees during the summer. The commitment is not huge. Once you adopt a grid, you need only sample in the grid twice a year for 45 minutes. Complete instructions are provided, along with tools such as a butterfly net and a tube (much like a queen-marking plunger) that allows you to photograph a captured bee from the bottom and the top.
Participants are allowed to adopt as many cells as they want. I adopted three that are fairly close to home and I’m hoping to round up some friends to go with me. If you have a trained partner, you can cut your time in half, since the 45 minutes are “person minutes.”
It’s not too late to participate
If you were unable to attend the training, you can still sign up to participate in the PNW Bumble Bee Atlas. All the course materials are being offered online, and there are still plenty of cells that need covering.
All collecting is non-destructive of the bumble bees themselves. Using the net, the tube, and a camera or cell phone, you can catch a bee, photograph it up close, and then release it back into the environment. You can also bring a cooler if you want to slow down the bee before transferring it into the photography chamber.
You can try to identify your bee using the guides provided, but it’s not necessary. Once you finish your survey, you upload your data and photos to the bee atlas where experts will identify your species.
Not into grids? Join Bumble Bee Watch
Even if you don’t want to adopt a grid, you can join Bumble Bee Watch and submit sightings and photographs from wherever you happen to see bumble bees. The information gathered is used to assess bumble bee populations and how they are changing over time. In addition to the Xerces Society, the PNW Bumble Bee Atlas is supported by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Oregon Department of Agriculture, and Oregon State University.
I would like to thank many of my readers, including Nancy Partlow of Tumwater and Lisa Robinson of Wenatchee, for alerting me to this training opportunity. In turn, I hope that some of you will sign up online and adopt a grid cell. Remember, all bees benefit from a healthy environment and whatever we learn about one species of bee can be used to help others. So come on, beekeepers, get out there and count bumbles!
Honey Bee Suite