Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Wanted: Citizen Scientists to Track Wild Bees in Illinois

The following was an e-mail to which I am inclined to respond. Tomorrow evenings presentation should be very interesting.

Honey bee colonies are in decline in many states, but little is known about their wild cousins, the bumble bees, or, for that matter, honey bees living on their own in the wild without beekeepers. A new initiative from the University of Illinois seeks to build a better record of honey bee and bumble bee abundance and distribution in Illinois by recruiting citizen scientists to report on wild bees seen anywhere in the state. Beginning Thursday (Oct. 4) the BeeSpotter Web site will connect bee enthusiasts to resources that will help them identify local bees, post photographs and enter geographic information about wild bees seen in backyards, parks or other Illinois locales. University of Illinois entomology professor and department head May Berenbaum will announce the Web site launch during a presentation at the Chicago Cultural Center on Thursday. Her presentation, on the ongoing pollinator crisis in North America, will describe the widespread decline in the viability of animals that transport pollen and allow most of the planet's flowering plants to reproduce. Berenbaum has testified before Congress on colony collapse disorder, a mysterious malady of North American honey bees. She also chaired the National Research Council committee that reported this year on the status of pollinators in North America. The idea for the BeeSpotter Web site emerged from recommendations in that study, Berenbaum said. A key finding was that too little information on pollinator abundance and distribution has been collected, particularly in the U.S."We don't know what is going on with pollinators because America has never deemed it important enough to try to keep track of its pollination resources," Berenbaum said. "Given that 90 crops in the U.S. agricultural sector depend on a single species of pollinator, and other crops depend on other pollinators, it would seem that for economic reasons alone this has been a serious oversight on our part," she said.There are too few pollination experts in the U.S. to bridge the data gap, she said. The new Web site seeks to address the problem by involving citizen scientists in bee-monitoring efforts. Participants will feed their information into a database, interact with experts in the field who will answer their questions and connect them to other resources, such as the Illinois Natural History Survey database of North American bees. BeeSpotter will provide a bee family tree, with biographies of the honey bee and each of the 12 species of bumble bees in Illinois. It will include a summary of the status of North American pollinators, with visual keys for identifying bees and distinguishing them from other insects. A data entry site will allow visitors to post digital photos, plot the location and describe the characteristics of bees they have seen. More content will be added to the Web site throughout the fall, including information about the honey bee genome, the economic impact of bees, how to avoid and treat bee stings and how to build a bee-friendly garden. Berenbaum's presentation, "Disappearing Bees," will be at 6 p.m. in the fifth floor Millennium Park Room of the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 East Washington Street.

Pollinators are in the media recently but this is not a new occurrence.

In Silent Spring, Rachel Carson reaches our intellect with a sense of urgency and despair, but she also bestows a sense of wonder at nature and at our often contradictory actions.
"These insects, so essential to our agriculture and indeed to our landscape as we know it, deserve something better from us than the senseless destruction of their habitat. Honeybees and wild bees depend heavily on such 'weeds' as goldenrod, mustard, and dandelions for pollen that serves as the food for their young.
By the precise and delicate timing that is nature's own, the emergence of one species of wild bee takes place on the very day of the opening of the willow blossoms.
There is no dearth of men who understand these things, but these are not the men who order the wholesale drenching of the landscape with chemicals. "

Nature writer and poet Diane Ackerman attacks our senses at a more basic level.
"A flower's fragrance declares to all the world that it is fertile, available, and desirable, its sex organs oozing with nectar. Its smell reminds us in vestigial ways of fertility, vigor, life-force, all the optimism, expectancy, and passionate bloom of youth. We inhale its ardent aroma and, no matter what our ages, we feel young and nubile in a world aflame with desire. "

Poets have always understood the importance of pollinators to reproduction.

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
-One clover, and a bee,
And revery.
The revery alone will do
If bees are few.
- Emily Dickinson To make a prairie (1755)

Pollination Poetry

What You Can Do
• Create your own pollinator-friendly garden using a wide variety of native flowering plants. Encourage the planting of native flowers in open spaces and outside public buildings.
• Reduce the level of pesticides used in and around your home.
• Encourage local clubs or school groups to build artificial habitats such as butterfly gardens, bee boards, and bee boxes.
• Support agriculture enterprises with pollinator-friendly practices such as farms that avoid or minimize pesticide use.
• Encourage government agencies to take into account the full economic benefits of wild pollinators when formulating policies for agriculture and other land uses. Stress the need to develop techniques for cultivating native pollinator species for crop pollination.
• Bring the importance of biological diversity to the attention of your state and national representatives. Stress that diversity includes beneficial native insects. Be prepared to provide local or regional examples of important species.
• Support funding for research on pollinators and the economic benefits they provide.

From the Pollination Tool Kit at


Anonymous Kathryn Hall said...

11/18/07--Hi, Gloria, I'm glad someone else is writing about the bees and their current state. You can read my recent post on this subject at my blog,, two posts back.
I spoke with a bee expert at UC Davis who directed me to: and Maybe you already know about them given the focus of your blog? Kathryn Hall

18/11/07 1:50 PM  
Blogger Gloria said...

Hello Kathryn Hall,I read you post on the current honey bee problem. I have been trying to keep up with the lastest findings.
The XERCES.ORG site is a link on the sidebar here pollinators welcome. I really should have a link to NAPPC.ORG as well. There is some great information there.
Have you read 'The Forgotten Pollinators'by Stephen L. Buchmann & Gary Paul Nabhan. It discusses the disappearing natives pollinators.
Thanks for bringing your blog to my attention.

23/11/07 12:56 PM  

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