Wild bees of Michigan

In May 2017, I started a post-doc in the MSU Entomology department, following completion of my PhD at Tufts University. It was a quick turn around from writing my dissertation, and I was out in the field collecting bees the first week on the job!

I was hired to work on a USDA-NIFA funded project evaluating pollinator health in Michigan. (read more about the project here)

As part of this project, I traveled all over Michigan this summer collecting wild bees, from blueberry fields in southwest Michigan to corn fields in the "thumb".

We collected bees from a wide range of habitats, both agricultural and natural. This allows us to get an estimate of wild bee diversity and abundance across the Michigan landscape.

To collect bees, we used different collection techniques based on the habitat.

In agricultural settings, we used "bowl traps". These are colored bowls that we elevate to bloom height, and fill with soapy water. Bees are attracted to the color and fall into the soapy water (the soap breaks the surface tension). This allows passive collection of insects.

In natural sites, such as restored prairie, we netted bees while walking transects (walking a straight line through a field).

All of these bees are now being identified by expert taxonomist Dr. Jason Gibbs, at the Univ. of Manitoba. There are over 450 known bee species native to Michigan, and fellow bee-nerds have been collecting and documenting Michigan bees at the same sites as us since as far back as the 1950s. So once our bees are identified, we will be able to compare the current diversity across different landscapes, and how this diversity compares to historic levels.

Worried about the bees? Me too. If you don't love the idea of us killing bees for this project, please see my previous blog post.