University of Nebraska–Lincoln partners with national nonprofit to launch statewide effort to conserve Nebraska’s pollinators.
Katie Lamke, Bumble Bee Conservation Specialist, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation
(707) 477-2224 | [email protected]
Rich Hatfield, Senior Conservation Biologist, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation
(971) 303-9150 | [email protected]
Doug Golick, Professor of Entomology, University of Nebraska–Lincoln
(402) 472-8642 | [email protected]
OMAHA, Neb., June 17, 2019—A new project provides an opportunity for community scientists to work alongside researchers to better understand the status of Nebraska’s bumble bees. The state is home to nearly 20 different species of these charismatic and easily recognizable bees, many of which have been affected by the dramatic land use change seen in the Midwest over the last 150 years. The Nebraska Bumble Bee Atlas is spearheaded by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
Pollinators play an essential role in sustaining the health of our environment by pollinating flowers in natural areas and contributing to successful harvests on farms. In recent years however, much of the recognition pollinators have received largely stems from the widespread decline of bees.
Declines of pollinator populations are alarming. Much attention has been given to the plight of the introduced European honey bee. Less well publicized, but no less important, is the parallel decline of native, wild bee populations, particularly bumble bees.
While this project will target all bumble bees, there are four species of particular concern that Nebraska Game and Parks has identified as Species of Greatest Conservation Need, which include the western bumble bee (Bombus occidentalis), southern plains bumble bee (Bombus fraternus), Suckley’s cuckoo bumble bee (Bombus suckleyi) and variable cuckoo bumble bee (Bombus variabilis).
“Whether you’re a career scientist or even just slightly interested in nature, community science provides an opportunity for the public and researchers to work together,” said Louise Lynch-O’Brien, Assistant Professor of Insect Biology at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. “Right now, our pollinators in Nebraska and beyond are facing all sorts of problems. Research is how we get a handle on these problems. It is always exciting to see community science efforts, like the Nebraska Bumble Bee Atlas, in action. This is a chance for anyone to get off the sidelines and do something about pollinator declines and conservation efforts.”
Nebraska has a rich history of publishing bumble bee distribution information going back to the early 1960s. The Bumble Bee Atlas project will build upon this to better understand how bumble bee distributions have changed through time, including in rural areas of the state. Recent information on bumble bee distribution has been focused on places where people live and gathering information outside of these areas will be key to the success of the project. Doing so will take the cooperation of stakeholders throughout the state, and a team of trained volunteers eager to collect the data.
“With much of state in private ownership, many areas have never been visited to document what bumble bee species exist there,” said Doug Golick, Associate Professor of Entomology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “Who knows? Maybe a community scientist will find a species currently undocumented in Nebraska.”
To help launch the project there will be several community science volunteer training events throughout July and August 2019. The events will help community scientists connect with other volunteers while learning about bumble bees and how to contribute to the atlas.
“Because Nebraska is home to so many unique habitats, we also have unique bumble bee communities, with a mix of species found in both the eastern and western United States,” said Jennifer Hopwood, Senior Pollinator Conservation Specialist, Midwest Region, for the Xerces Society. “Getting a clear understanding of where bumble bees are thriving, as well as documenting the plant species and habitats that are supporting them, will help us be able to better develop evidence-based pollinator conservation plans throughout the state.”
Conservation partners throughout Nebraska and beyond look forward to the lasting effects of this project.
“Bees and other pollinators serve a very important role in our environment, and monitoring efforts are necessary to better identify the current distribution and population status of Nebraska’s at-risk bumble bees,” said Melissa Panella, Wildlife Diversity Program Manager for Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. “The Nebraska Bumble Bee Atlas is a fantastic opportunity for cooperation with community scientists to help Nebraska Game and Parks Commission managers make more-informed decisions that will have the greatest positive impact on our bumble bees.”
The Nebraska Bumble Bee Atlas is funded through a grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust. The Trust is funded by proceeds from the Nebraska Lottery and has awarded more than $305 million to more than 2,200 conservation projects across the state of Nebraska since 1994.
For more information about the Nebraska Bumble Bee Atlas project, please visit https://www.nebraskabumblebeeatlas.org
For more information about Bumble Bee Watch, please visit http://www.bumblebeewatch.org
For more information about bumble bee conservation, please visit https://xerces.org/bumblebees
ABOUT THE XERCES SOCIETY FOR INVERTEBRATE CONSERVATION
The Xerces Society is a nonprofit organization that protects the natural world by conserving invertebrates and their habitat. Established in 1971, the Society is a trusted source for science-based information and advice. We collaborate with people and institutions at all levels and our work to protect pollinators encompasses all landscapes. Our team draws together experts from the fields of habitat restoration, entomology, botany and conservation biology with a single passion: protecting the life that sustains us. To learn more about our work, please visit www.xerces.org or follow us @xercessociety on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.