Learn to identify the 14 species of Iowa bumble bees in new ‘atlas’ program

Volunteers across Iowa with an interest in pollinator conservation are needed for a new program that will help researchers track and monitor the state’s at-risk bumble bees. Stephanie Shepherd, a wildlife diversity biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says the Iowa Bumble Bee Atlas will recruit and train community scientists to survey and identify the dozen-plus species of bumble bees that live in our state.

There are between 300 and 400 types of bees living in Iowa, but she says this survey will only focus on the state’s 14 species of bumble bees.

There are two free training sessions scheduled this month for potential volunteers. Shepherd says bumble bees play an essential role in sustaining the health of the environment, from pollinating native wildflowers to flowering crops in farm fields and backyard gardens. Several species native to Iowa have undergone alarming declines, she says, and they face an uncertain future.

The Iowa Bumble Bee Atlas is a collaboration between the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, Iowa State University, and the Iowa D-N-R. Bumble Bee Atlas projects are underway in 20 states. Last year alone, more than 900 people helped to document over 20,000 bumble bees, and some volunteers discovered species previously thought to have vanished from their states.

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