Bee Aware!

In search of prime habitat for native bees

Bee experts and volunteers combed through acres of prairie restored by Great River Greening this summer, documenting bumble bee species and the flowers they prefer. It was the start of a three-year project with our partners, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and Maplewood Nature Center, that merges the best science of vegetation restoration with pollinator management, and engages the community as citizen scientists, restoration stewards, and students of the environment.

“We are excited to start this relationship. Monitoring our restoration sites will tell us what we are doing right – and what we could do better – to manage for both plants and pollinators.” -Wiley Buck, Great River Greening ecologist

Citizen scientists learn to collect meaningful data


Surveying bees for species, gender, and foraging patterns takes some training: At least 350 species of bees live in Minnesota -19 of which are bumble bees. Many are in fast decline. To engage the public in the project, the partnership is involving 150 people in a Citizen Scientist program.

This summer, at the bumble bee survey site in Pilot Knob, Mendota Heights, Great River Greening volunteers received guidance from Xerces’ Pollinator Conservation Specialist Sarah Foltz Jordan (pictured right) and Elaine Evans of University of Minnesota Bee Lab (left). The two showed methods of collection and demonstrated how to determine the species and sex, mark them to avoid counting the same bee more than once, and set them free.

“I am a lawyer, not a scientist. But I love to learn about the environment and healthy ecosystems. This was a great lesson in native bumble bees and what they need to survive. I am now much better equipped to provide valuable data, even if it is just a photo of a rare bee I sight in my yard.”  -Survey Volunteer


Other components of this multi-year monitoring project include:

  • School group and families learning about native plant restoration, pollinator conservation, and science at the Maplewood Nature Center
  • Training for the more serious participants, on pollinator and native plants, and the relationship between the two
  • Publishing a Minnesota Citizen Science Pollinator Monitoring Guide

An aptly named flower

Of the 135 bees collected during one survey at Pilot Knob, 123 were found on bee balm.

This project is made possible with support from the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund.