Experimental Forest Network Hosts Nationwide Bee Monitoring Project
Much has been written about the status of native bee populations in North America both in the popular and the scientific press. The primary theme in many of those reports is that native bee populations have declined. However, to date, such declines have been quantified over large geographic areas only for bumblebees. Despite the recent publicity, we currently have no ability to measure the status or trends of native bees across the United States. There are approximately 4000 species of bees in the United States and they pollinate 30-60% of all the plants in a given environment . Understanding changes in bee populations is critical due to their central role in maintaining habitats, their key to agriculture, and the declining fortunes of introduced honey bees and beekeepers.
Eleven Forest Service Experimental Forests and Ranges participated in the first year of a nationwide bee monitoring project in conjunction with the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center (Figure 1). The sites were specifically designed to cover as broad an ecological range as possible and included sites in Minnesota, Maine, Texas, Georgia, Colorado, Idaho, California, Ohio, Utah, Oregon, and Puerto Rico. Over 3500 bees from 36 genera were collected from pan traps in 2010. Bumblebees and sweat bees were trapped in nearly all locations, other genera frequently were clustered in the Eastern or Western US.
The first year of this study demonstrated the feasibility of a national monitoring effort at fairly low cost. The data generated from a monitoring network can be used to estimate regional changes in bee populations and communities, better determine which species are common or rare in particular locations, assess seasonal trends in bee populations, and generate an extensive collection of specimens for future study.
Forest Service Partners