In recent years, the popular media in the United States has been buzzing with news of mysteriously disappearing Western honey bee populations (“Colony Collapse Disorder”). A less well-known, but potentially scarier problem is that the native bees that have been pollinating North American flowering plants for millions of years are also showing signs of decline. To that end, we need more information on our native bees to assess the extent and severity of population declines and to start understanding their causes.
While most of our solitary native bees and wasps nest in the ground, some species have evolved to use holes in wood such as those made by beetles. Others use hollow stems of plants, like rose canes. Many of these cavity nesters will nest in man-made blocks as well. While nesting, they bring in various materials including leaves, mud, or resin. The composition of the material used to plug the nest is specific to the type of bee or wasp, and so it provides a clever way to categorize what has nested in the block.
The Bees’ Needs is a Citizen Science project that focuses on collecting data on native, solitary, wood-nesting bees and wasps by recording characteristics of the nest plugs constructed by these insects in a standardized bee block. These nest plug data will help us:
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