Big Bee Bonanza

Our collections have been busy bees all a-buzz getting this project ready to launch – and now it’s finally ready! Want to help us save the bees from the comfort of your laptop, tablet, or other electronic device? We thought you might 🙂

The Notes from Nature project, Big Bee Bonanza, was created as part of the Big-Bee network, which brings together collections from all over the US that have, you guessed it – bees that need to be digitized! With this project you will be helping scientists to track changes in bee body size across geographic space and time. We will be able to answer many important questions such as, Are bees bigger at higher elevations? Are they smaller during drought years? What plants do bees like the best? You can help researchers answer these and many other questions about bee biodiversity, which will in turn help provide the information needed to try and save these amazing creatures.

The Big Bee Bonanza project has two very different kinds of expeditions you can help with. The first kind is similar to other Notes from Nature projects where you can help us transcribe important label data from bee specimen labels. While this may not seem that important, this information is crucial for tracking species through time and space and monitoring their populations. We have also added a host plant field to our label digitization projects. Host plants are often recorded on bee specimen labels and it refers to the flower the bee was visiting at the time it was collected. Believe it or not, we still don’t know a whole lot about what flowers bees need for pollen and nectar, so this is super useful information!

The second kind of expedition is brand new for the Notes from Nature forum. For these expeditions, we ask you to measure bee body size using a novel measurement tool! In these expeditions, you will get up close and personal with beautiful bees (by zooming in on your screen!), set a scale bar, and measure the distance between wing pads, or tegulae (the bits that look like 1990s shoulder pads – make sure you watch the how-to video we made).  The measurement you take can be used to approximate bee body weight and overall size. This is critical information for learning about both individual and population-level bee health. With so many bees that we still need to learn about, we need your help to collect this data. Plus, it’s a great excuse to get a close-up look at bees from around the world!

Thank you for your help and we look forward to hearing from you about this new tool and answering your bee questions.

Get involved and give the project a try!

– Katja Seltmann, UC Santa Barbara, Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration

– Erika Tucker, Milwaukee Public Museum & Biodiversity Outreach Network (BON)

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