Missouri Bumble Bee Atlas: A statewide project engaging community scientists to track bumble bees

Missouri Bumble Bee Atlas logo

(Xerces Society) A project to better understand the status of Missouri’s bumble bees is being launched this month thanks to a new conservation partnership. The Missouri Bumble Bee Atlas will combine the efforts of the Missouri Department of Conservation; the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources; two nonprofit organizations, Quail and Pheasants Forever and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation; and volunteers spread throughout the state.

Community scientists identify bumble bees correctly 50% of the time

Image of bumble bee on clover flower.

(York University) Think you can identify that bumble bee you just took a photo of in your backyard? York University researchers have found that a little more than 50% of community science participants, who submitted photos to the North American Bumble Bee Watch program, were able to properly identify the bee species. “Accurate species level identification is an important first step for effective conservation management decisions. Those community science programs that have experts review submitted photos to determine if the identification is correct have a higher scientific value.”

Agroforestry is ‘win win’ for bees and crops

Image of trees in the woods.

(EurekAlert/University of Reading) A new study provides observed evidence that Planting woody plant species alongside crops can increase wild insect pollinator numbers and increases pollination. Researchers found agroforestry sites had double the number of solitary bees and hoverflies, and in arable agroforestry sites there were 2.4 times more bumblebees than in those with just one kind of crop.

Genetic identity: A new threat to native bumble bees

Screen shot of the video.

(The Applied Ecologist) In their recently published article, Ignasi Bartomeus and colleagues show how the commercial bumble bee trade is affecting the genetic integrity of native pollinators. They show evidence that hybridization between commercial and native lines is common in southern Spain. What are its implications? What should we do to fix it? They’ve also crafted a wonderful video (with the help of Bartomeus’ kids) to explain it all.

A downward spiral for insects

Illustration of different insects.

(National Wildlife Federation) Monarch butterflies west of the Rocky Mountains have declined to less than 1 percent of their historic numbers. Over a quarter of North America’s bumble bee species face some level of extinction. Dispatches from other branches of the insect family tree tell similar tales – from declining moths in Scotland to drops in the abundance of tiger beetles, stoneflies and mayflies in the United States to decreases in beetles, moths and caddisflies in the Netherlands. A 2019 review of 73 insect-decline papers stated that the animals are disappearing so fast that more than 40 percent of the world’s insect species may be threatened with extinction in the next few decades. However, the solutions to these declines are within our reach.

Wildflower’s spiny pollen adapts to help plants reproduce

Microscopic image of spiky pollen.

(University of Missouri) Researchers at the University of Missouri discovered that the spiny pollen from a native wild dandelion species in the southern Rocky Mountains has evolved to attach to traveling bumble bees. When compared with the average lawn dandelion, which does not need pollen to reproduce, the researchers saw that the pollen on the lawn dandelion has a shorter distance between these spines, making it harder to attach to traveling pollinators.

Bumble bees bite plants to make them flower early, surprising scientists

Image of buff-tailed bumble bee flying among thistle.

(National Geographic) Bumble bees aren’t merely bumbling around our gardens. They’re actively assessing the plants, determining which flowers have the most nectar and pollen, and leaving behind scent marks that tell them which blooms they’ve already visited. Now, a new study reveals that bumble bees force plants to flower by making tiny incisions in their leaves – a discovery that has stunned bee scientists.