Keep going! We need your fall observations, too!

Hello incredible beeple!
I hope you’ve all been enjoying the lovely Fall weather (or at least in MD…)!  These coming weeks are a great time to investigate what floral resources our bumble friends use as their season closes out. These flowers will fuel hibernating queens, so I’m extra curious to see what their top choices are! Out in MD I’ve been seeing lots of love for Goldenrods and Wingstem, but what else!?
I’ve always found it compelling that supporting bees throughout a fraction (but not all) of their active season can lead to starvation as the large populations we all built up suddenly have no food available. We encourage surveying until you can’t find any more bumbles (normally mid-October in MD) to ensure we support them throughout their entire time of need! 🙂 
And hey, I know I’d rather get out for a long day of surveys in this beautiful weather than in the hot Summer sun!
We’re at 827 surveys as of Monday, September 19th. I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish by mid-October! Let me know if you have any questions, and keep up the great work everyone!


Common Eastern bumble bee (Bombus impatiens) on rugosa rose, September in midcoast Maine

Update from Jenan!

Hello AABB Team!
I hope you’ve all been doing well over these past couple of weeks! It’s Jenan checking in with all my amazing surveyors, and giving you a couple of minor updates.
First, we’ve reached about 680 surveys submitted, and 515 registered surveyors! That’s incredible! Thank you all for helping collect so much data – I never imagined so many people would be so excited to help the bumbles, and I can’t wait to see what we can learn from analyzing it. 🙂
Most of these surveys were completed in MD (around 140), VA (around 130),OH (around 120), and PA (around 100). Other locations we’ve received data from include Canada, AK, CA, CO, CT, GA, IL, MA, ME, MI, MO, MN, NC, NH, NJ, NM, NY, TX, VT, WI, and WV.  Pretty cool to see how spread out we are!
While we still would love more data from everywhere (!!), it would be especially great to get more data from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and West Virginia. If you’re in one of these states and there’s anything I can do to make the survey process easier, please reach out and let me know!
Second, I’ve heard that some people are having a hard time with Seek and Google Drive, so we’ve created an additional survey option that bypasses these parts by using iNaturalist and the digital datasheet! For this option, simply upload all of your flower photos to iNaturalist and provide a link to each flower photo in the corresponding row of the datasheet. Attached is an example of a survey submitted this way (Big thanks to a clever surveyor,  Abbie, who suggested and tested out this idea!). Feel free to reach out with any questions about this method, or to continue using the old method.
I know it’s brutally hot across a lot of the US right now, so I hope everyone is staying hydrated and taking breaks! Thank you EXTRA for going out and surveying in this heat! Thanks again, stay safe, and happy surveying!!

July’s AABB Blitz

Hello AABB Team!

Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who participated in the July Blitz (The AABBB)! It was great to meet some surveyors in person to clear up any confusion and get some great feedback.

It also was amazing to get so much data collected! Here’s the rundown of our Blitz results:

We had a total of 29 surveys submitted by 24 participants across 11 states! These states were MD, VA, NY, CT, NC, OH, NH, MN, MI, GA, and CA.

These surveyors observed 686 bumbles, and 104 carpenter bees in just a single day!!

8 bumble bee species were documented:

  1. Common Eastern Bumble Bee (B. impatiens)
  2. Two-Spotted Bumble Bee (B. bimaculatus)
  3. Brown Belted Bumble Bee (B. griseocollis)
  4. Half-black bumble bee (B. vagans)
  5. Confusing Bumble Bee (B. perplexus)
  6. Black and Gold Bumble Bee (B. auricomus)
  7. Golden Northern Bumble Bee (B. fervidus)
  8. American Bumble Bee (B. pensylvanicus)

And, most importantly, a whole bunch of bumble bee floral preferences that we will analyze later.

Thanks again to everyone who participated, and to those who tried but were rained out. Sam and I (and the bumble bees I’m sure) are so grateful to have you all on board!

Jenan El-Hifnawi

AABB Coordinator

Update from Jenan: Get out and survey tomorrow for the Ask A Bumble Bee Blitz!

Hello phenomenal bumble counting team!

The Blitz is finally almost here (tomorrow, July 16th!!), and I hope you’re all excited to get out and collect some data! Just as a reminder, there are two options for participating in the Blitz:

1) Simply go out and do as many surveys as you can tomorrow, and submit your data by midnight the same day. This option is completely independent, can be done anywhere, and is basically surveying as usual.

2) Join a Blitz group to meet up with tomorrow at 10:00 am, and go survey from there! If you’re going with a group, remember that we don’t want to duplicate data. This means multiple people shouldn’t be surveying the same area at the same time. My plan is to meet up and discuss the survey protocol, then send people off to survey different areas within walking distance. If anyone feels uncertain about the procedure, I’ll have them come along with me to watch me complete a survey – but we will only submit one datasheet. After we’re all done, we’ll meet back up to discuss the floral quantification, and any questions that came up.

Here’s the group info again – all groups are planning to meet at 10:00 am EST:

Group 1: Bowie/Laurel, MD – Bee Lab at Patuxent Wildlife Research Refuge with Jenan El-Hifnawi (

Group 2 : Ridgely, MD – Adkins Arboretum with Sam Droege (

Group 3: Loudoun, VA – Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve with Heather Dionne (

Groups 4 and 5: Williamstown, WV – Refuge office at Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge with Elaine Barr and her colleague (

Whether or not you join a group, we want your data for the Blitz! Thank you all for collecting so much amazing data already – I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish tomorrow! 🙂

Jenan El-Hifnawi
Ask A Bumble Bee (AABB) Coordinator

Mark Your Calendar for the FIRST EVER Ask A Bumble Bee Blitz, July 16th!

Hello lovely beeple! It’s Jenan checking in to give you all an Ask A Bumble Bee update!

First – We currently have 536 people signed up for AABB, and have received 314 surveys! Of the 536 registered, 84 people have submitted surveys.  I’m so excited to have all this data already, and am so grateful to have such a hardworking group of scientists on my side! Sincerely, a HUGE thank you to everyone who’s gotten out to survey!!
bumble bee on flower

Two spotted bumble bee worker (Bombus bimaculatus) on bracted spiderwort (Tradescantia bracteata). Image credit: Heather Holm

Second – We’re starting an AABB Blitz (AABBB) on July 16th (rain date = July 17th)! EVERYONE (!!!) should get out and do as many surveys as they can on this day! By the next evening, we’ll follow up with some quick broad summary statistics (e.g. how many surveys, how many participants, how many bees total, etc.). To be included in AABBB analysis, make sure you do some surveys and submit your data sheets on the 16th!


We’re also hoping to have some small groups go out and survey together as a part of the blitz!  It’ll be a super fun way of meeting some fellow surveyors, and also a good opportunity to iron out any questions that may be holding you back from surveying. Sam and I will split up and each take a group in MD, and we hope some of you will form groups of your own in local parks, nature centers, etc.! Stay tuned for more details!


If anyone is interested in leading a survey group as part of the Blitz, please shoot me an email! 🙂

I’ll be out of town from tomorrow (June 24th) until July 13th, but a fellow bee lab member, Kalani, will be checking this email periodically to sign up new surveyors and try to answer basic questions. Otherwise, I’ll try my best to get back to everyone when I return!


Thanks again for participating, and let me know if you have any questions!




Jenan El-Hifnawi
AABB Coordinator

Update from Jenan: A Lot About Lots!!

Hello bumble hunters! I hope you’ve all been enjoying the warmer weather, and are getting out there to count our fuzzy friends. I’ve been having an amazing time surveying over the past couple weeks as numbers of workers are rising quickly and males are beginning to appear! Earlier in the season I was only seeing a couple bees per survey: all queens, mostly brown-belted (B. griseocollis) and two-spotted (B. bimaculatus). Now most of my surveys in good habitats have upwards of 30 bees each!

bumble bee

Brown belted bumble bee worker, Bombus griseocollis, USGS

Bumble bee on purple flowers

Two-spotted bumble bee worker, Bombus bimaculatus, image credit: Heather Holm


















In terms of survey updates, I have 3 main things. 1) small updates to the wording of the instructions, 2) A podcast feature! 3) Digital data sheets are available!

1) We revamped our description of “#lots” after receiving lots (get it!) of feedback from the training webinar. Here’s an excerpt of the updated instructions:

# Lots is a measure of floral distribution that explains if flowers are concentrated together in a small area or dispersed across your entire survey area. For # Lots, after completing a survey imagine the path you walked was divided into 25 small house lots.  For each blooming plant, estimate how many of those 25 lots the species was in. If you survey a field full of clover with a single apple tree, the clover will be present in almost every lot, so it gets a high number close to 25. The apple tree sits in a small area, so it’s only in 1 lot. Another way to think about this is picturing your survey area as a monopoly board. Roughly how many squares on the board contain a given flower species?

This is a rough estimation of how spread out each flower species is, so don’t worry about determining a precise value.  It doesn’t matter how much of each lot is covered by the flower species, only that the species occurs in the lot.

Thanks for all your feedback on this!

2) For a more exciting update, AABB was featured on the Backyard Ecology Podcast!

I chatted with the host, Shannon Trimboli, about an overview of the project, and some ideas relating to bumble bee floral preference. Shannon is amazing, and has put together a really nice podcast if I do say so myself! Give it a listen here if you’re interested. This conversation was super casual and not intended to train anyone on how to survey, so if you’re looking for clarification on the survey protocol, either check out the resources on our website, or shoot me an email. 🙂

Backyard Ecology podcast

3) Ask and you shall receive! Lots of people have asked for online versions of the data sheets. We came up with these Google Sheets/Excel files which you can fill in with your data. I can’t think of a reason to make fillable PDF versions as well as these, so I’m not planning to do that at the moment. If any of you have a reason why a fillable PDF is still needed, let me know and I’m happy to work on it. 🙂

I’ve been receiving tons of data from a lot of participants, and I cannot thank you enough! You all are truly an impressive group of scientists, and I can’t wait to see what we can all achieve together. 🙂

Keep up the good work, and don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions! Thank you all again!


Note from Jenan: Tomorrow’s webinar (5/27@10AM EASTERN)

Hi all you wonderful beeple!

Sam and I want to remind everyone about the Ask A Bumble Bee training webinar tomorrow (Friday May 27th) at 10:00 am! If you’re feeling uncertain about any part of the survey, you should totally come join to get your questions answered!
I’m going to talk about how to survey, discuss some key questions that have come up, and leave plenty of time to answer audience questions.
Here’s the link to register to attend the webinar:
You can find the recording on the 28th on our new website (hosted by OSU):

Webinar aside, thank you all for your hard work this Spring! We have around 130 surveys submitted at the moment, and I’m so excited to keep seeing that number rise. Last year, we only had 99 surveys in the entire season, so this is really awesome! We’ve also surpassed 400 participants registered (WOAH!), and I’ve received surveys from around 35 of you.

two spotted bumble bee on flower

Two spotted bumble bee Bombus bimaculatus on Virginia waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum. Image credit: Heather Holm

Thanks so much again to everyone who’s submitted data, and to everyone who is planning to in the future! I’m humbled to have so many incredible naturalists working on this team with me. 🙂
Hope to see you on the webinar tomorrow, and don’t forget to get out there and survey!
~ Jenan
Jenan El-Hifnawi
Ask A Bumble Bee Survey Coordinator
Sent by Denise on Jenan’s behalf.

Welcome to Ask A Bumble Bee!

Hello! This floral resource survey depends on community scientists like you to observe bees on flowers. Attend the participant training webinar on Friday, May 27th at 10:00AM EASTERN by registering here. Can’t make the session? Check back on May 28th for the webinar recording.

While you don’t need to be able to identify bumble bee or flower species to help with this survey, by participating you’re sure to learn more about these fascinating bees and the flowers they prefer.

Ask A Bumble Bee is sponsored by the USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab and is coordinated by Jenan El-Hifnawi and Sam Droege. The Ask A Bumble Bee website is managed in partnership with Denise Ellsworth at The Ohio State University.

Welcome aboard!

Two spotted bumble bee face

Two-spotted bumble bee, Bombus bimaculatus (USGS)

bumble bee on flower

Two-spotted bumble bee queen, Bombus bimaculatus, on American plum, Prunus americana. Image credit: Heather Holm