Ohio Bee Survey – Fall Updates

Hello everyone!

Things have been very busy in the lab over the last few months so below are several of the updates.

Specialist Bee Sampling:
Amber is working on getting specimens turned in for the 2023 season. Thank you to everyone who participated!
Interim reports for 2021 and 2022 sampling are going out now.

Final Reports for the 2020 Bee Bowl Survey:

We finally have the bowl survey specimens identified as low as they are going to go. Individual site level reports have all been sent out. If you did not receive your 2020 bowl report, please let me know.

We created a document for each of the species found that includes maps and natural history information. See: AppendixA_BeeBowlMaps_SpeciesProfiles

Undergraduate student Keri Bowyer did a poster comparing bowl traps to malaise traps set in Allen county. She presented her work at the Fall Undergraduate Research Forum. Her poster can be found here: Comparing richness and abundance of beneficial insect taxa 2023 FINAL

New graduate student Matthew Semler did a poster on specialist bee use of thistle at the Ohio Invasive Plants Conference. That poster can be found here: OIPC_Poster_2023_Final

Dr. Karen Goodell, Amber Fredenburg, and new graduate student Lizzy Sakulich presented their work at the national entomology meeting earlier this month. Both Amber and Lizzy took home awards in the judged graduate student presentations. Dr. Goodell recorded her presentation, which can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0Ap3nOpwvI

Dr. Goodell (left) and Amber (right) met up with Sam Droege (center) since the conference was in Maryland.

Cheyenne Helton has finished up her thesis on bumble bees and floral use. She defended at the beginning of the month. Great work Cheyenne! You can watch a recorded version of her defense by clicking here.

Cheyenne and Dr. Goodell on Defense Day

In summary, the lab has been very busy and productive these last few months!


Before turning in the bowl specimens into the museum for archival, I have been working on focus stacking images so we have at least one photo per species. I have made it through everything except the Halictids. Below are some of the example images. Those who are photographers know just how hard it is to get clear shots of things smaller than a grain of rice.

Osmia texana viewed from the side showing the black scopa.

A bumble bee look alike, we got a few Anthophora specimens in our bowls.

Identifying older specimens:
MaLisa has been spending most of her time identifying older specimens. I’ve made a lot of progress on bees from several mines in southeastern Ohio, which has yielded some interesting bees. These are bees from older projects that have needed attention for almost a decade, so it has been exciting to make some progress on those specimens.

Best wishes,


Ohio Bee Survey – May Updates and a road trip to Indiana!

Hi everyone,

May is a busy month, with grad students focusing on field work while MaLisa is busy with the final identifications of all the specimens. We are down to the final bit of bees, so things are tidying up!

Rob Jean works for Environmental Solutions & Innovations, Inc. His bee reference specimens are in the office and he has compiled a nice collection!

MaLisa did a road trip out to  Indiana last week to visit Rob Jean and his bee collection. Rob took a look at several of our specimens and MaLisa was able to access the reference specimens to compare IDs in some of the tricky groups.

Rob busy looking through many specimens. He was verifying my Andrena IDs from the specialist bee project and also looking at several Lasioglossum specimens.

If you haven’t identified before, it is worth noting the importance of reference collections. Many identification keys are not illustrated and instead only have text descriptions of the characters you are looking for. A character might be listed as “densely pitted” or “strongly curved” but without an illustration that can be subjective. How dense is dense? How curved is curved? Having a known verified specimen of a species allows you to run through all the characters and better understand what those characters mean. So imagine my surprise when I learned that the Andrena macra specimen with the “strongly curved” inner tibial spur looks like the image below.

Mitchell called this inner tibial spur “strongly curved” but it sure seems only mildly curved in my book. Hence why having access to reference specimens, images, and other detailed descriptions is important for double checking identifications.

I also got to check out other species of Andrena that are rare or not expected to occur in Ohio.

This is Andrena jessicae, which is found down in Texas and New Mexico. It is similar to Andrena erythrogaster, which is our red abdomen species that is a specialist on willows and occurs in our area. But Andrena jessicae has mostly been collected on a different family of plants and has a differently sculpted propodeum.

Rob also let me see the new species that he is working on describing! It is a very distinct and charismatic Andrena with several very unique characters. I know we didn’t get any of these bees in our samples, but he does expect them to range into Ohio!
The new species specimens are blurred out since he has not yet published that data.

Another fun species to see was Andrena cerebrata, where the males have these very large knobs on the hind cheeks. It is thought to be a specialist on Mock Orange, so if you have that blooming, watch out for this bee!

Another fun species, I got to see a male (yellow on face) and female (all dark) Andrena bradleyi! It is thought to be a specialist on plants in the family Ericaceae, so they have these extra long clypeus to hypothetically help them get deeper into the flowers.

The female Andrena bradleyi. Why the long face?

One of the groups of Andrena I was struggling with were the ones with rough propodeums and wide facial fovea. Rob had references for many of them, so it was nice to be able to see the species I did not have and compare.

A male Andrena quintilisThe pitting on the male Andrena quintilis

Otherwise, our updates are that we are still working on the final report and the archival process. I appreciate the people who have stopped out to the lab to help us with the monumental task of moving specimens from the pizza boxes and into the archival drawers. If you have some free time, you are welcome to visit the lab and help us with that transfer!

All for now,


April Updates: Identification, Conferences, and Bees!

Hi Everyone!

We are still busy as ever in the lab. We finally got the correct unit trays and are fast at work getting specimens into drawers to be finally archived! If you want to help us with the archival process in the lab, please email MaLisa to set up a date to visit in the lab.

We are also still busy with the remaining few identifications and a large draft species report that is currently 278 pages! For the 2020 bowl survey, it is mostly Lasioglossum left. For the Specialist Bee Survey, we have a few hundred tricky Andrena and Lasioglossum, but are getting those wrapped up. Once all of those are identified, MaLisa will send out the final reports. We are getting close! I can say that we got at least 50 different species of Andrena in the specialist bee project!

NCB-ESA meeting in OKC:

The student poster session at the NCB meeting was fun!

A few weeks ago, Dr. Goodell, MaLisa, and Cheyenne went to the North Central Branch meeting of the Entomological Society of America. It was held in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma this year, so we were in for a long drive. Dr. Goodell had a poster of her work with colleagues and MaLisa gave a presentation on the Ohio Bee Survey and highlights from the bowl trap efforts. As Cheyenne’s first conference as part of her graduate work, she got to learn the ins and outs of the fun insect meeting. You can see her poster on bumble bees here: Cheyenne ESA poster 2023

Her poster did so well that Cheyenne ended up winning second place poster in her section.  Congratulations Cheyenne!

eDNA mini project:

Our undergraduate assistant, Keri, received an internal grant to test a new method for identifying bees nesting in the soil. By probing the nest hole with a clean swab, she is trying to pick up environmental DNA (eDNA) that the inhabitant left. Every living organism sheds a small amount of DNA wherever they go. If we can pick up some of this DNA, extract it, and amplify it, we can use it to identify occupant of the hole. Keri’s research is a “proof-of-concept” project with that will potentially introduce a new method for monitoring bees. Keri had fun swabbing nests and getting outside in the nice weather.

Example of swabbing a nest hole that we are fairly confident is a bee nest.

This nesting aggregation is under a barn, so we are hoping to see if we can detect the bees, but also the parasitic bees that might be here.

This hillside had partly collapsed, and bees were taking advantage of the exposed soil.

All for now,



April Updates – Graduate student grant, archiving specimens, and recruiting collectors for specialist bees

Hi everyone!

We are still working on the large report for the 2020 bowl survey, but things are wrapping up nicely there!

A photo of Amber in the field.

Graduate student grants:
Amber applied and was awarded a grant to support her habitat assessment work to go along with the specialist bee survey! Congratulations Amber!






Specimen archival:
A key part of our ethical responsibility as researchers who have collected specimens is to make sure that they are properly archived at a museum and accessible to other researchers. One of the first steps to archival is to have specimens properly pinned and labelled with archival paper. We use special archival paper for the labels that is acid free and slower to break down over time.

A photo of our long awaited unit trays that go inside the USNM drawers.

Once everything is pinned and labelled, we transfer the specimens into sealed drawers that fit into airtight cabinets. We got our USNM drawers many months ago and have been waiting for the trays that go inside the drawers, which arrived last week! The drawers and cabinets help at reducing the chance of dermestid beetles getting in and eating the pinned specimens.

The notorious dermestid beetle larvae and nightmare of many entomologists. These tiny larvae love to eat dead organic material.

The beetle larvae love to munch on pinned specimens and can turn a collection into dust. So far, we have not found any dermestids in our collection, but it is better to prevent them getting in than to deal with the consequences. Many museums have moved away from insecticide treatments for them and instead cycle their entire collection through a freezing regimen to kill any potential dermestid larvae.

Vanessa posing with her robber fly specimens.

So far, we have archived the robber flies that are part of Vanessa Chilcoat’s undergraduate thesis. We made a trip out to the Museum of Biological Diversity where we dropped off the specimens in their drawers. These robber flies were all bycatch, or accidentally caught, as part of the 2020 bowl survey. We still need to drop off the hover fly and bee specimens from the project, though we also will need to pare down the number of specimens archived as the museum does not need 5,000 specimens of the same species. The process of transferring the bees and hover flies from their current boxes and into drawers will take a bit, so if anyone wants to help out in the lab, just let us know!

Specialist Bee Sampling:
We are still recruiting people to help with the specialist bee survey that will be managed by Amber Fredenburg and Dr. Goodell this coming year. We had a zoom training that was recorded so you can watch that to catch up on the methods.

If you would like to sign up to participate in the more targeted specialist bee survey and get emails, please go to this page and fill out that form: https://u.osu.edu/beesurvey/native-bee-survey-via-specimen-collections/120-2/

All for now,


Feb Update: Recruiting for 2023 Specialist Bee Survey + Hover fly Maps

Hi everyone!

Specialist Bee Sampling:
We are recruiting people to help with the specialist bee survey that will be managed by Amber Fredenburg this coming year. There will be a zoom training session next Wednesday evening on March the 8th at 6 PM. It will be recorded.

If you would like to sign up to participate in the more targeted specialist bee survey and get emails, please go to this page and fill out that form: https://u.osu.edu/beesurvey/native-bee-survey-via-specimen-collections/120-2/

Specialist bee field guide: For those wanting a copy of the specialist bee field guide, here is the link to the pdf that you can send to have printed at any local print shop: https://u.osu.edu/beesurvey/files/2021/04/GuidetoSpecialistBeesofOhio_2021.pdf

Ohio Natural History Conference Updates:
We had a good turnout at the Ohio Natural History Conference down in Cinci. MaLisa gave a talk, and both Amber and Eleanor had posters.

New paper from the lab:
The Goodell Lab just published a paper on the floral use of Ohio bumble bees here: https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ecs2.4425

Toxomerus marginatus

Toxomerus makes up the bulk of the hover fly abundance

Hover Fly Maps:
As part of the bee bowl project, we had many hover flies get into our bowls accidentally. We have created maps for all of the hover fly taxa, which are below. A majority of specimens were in the genus Toxomerus, which eat aphids and other soft bodied insects as larvae and pollinate flowers as adults. Since we are not doing a large write up on the hover flies beyond what Eleanor put in her thesis and what will go into a peer reviewed publication, I wanted to release the maps here. Let us know if you have questions! We will have similar maps for the bees from the bowls that we are incorporating into a large report that we will send to all of the collectors to reference.

Feb Update: Map and reporting progress

Hi Everyone!

It has been a while since I have last updated. We have been busy processing the specialist bees and identifying the remaining tricky bees. I also got around to making maps for the bowl survey project. Below are a few examples. We are working on the final write-up of the species from that project so people can then reference when I send out the final species reports of what was collected from each site. I appreciate the patience of everyone who has collected for us! It has been a long time coming, so we are doing our best to get things wrapped up.

We also had a few speaking engagements, with me presenting our research at the Ohio Wildlife Management Conference in Columbus in January.

We will also be speaking at the Ohio Natural History Conference next Saturday, the 25th of February down in Cincinnati, Ohio. We will also have multiple posters from the project at the conference. Info on that conference can be found here: https://ohiobiologicalsurvey.regfox.com/ohio-natural-history-conference-2023 


As promised, here are some of the maps that we generated. Lot of fun things and weird distributions! These, plus all the other maps will be included in our large overall report, which will be included with the final report. So expect more in the next few months.

For collectors, can you pick out your site on the map? There should be a dot that represents your sampling location, though they are large enough to not give away your exact location. I am so thankful to all that who participated that made such a good statewide coverage possible. We could not have done it without you!

All for now,


November Survey Update – Bee Progress and Undergraduate Asilid Research

Hello everyone!

We are making great headway with our 2020 bowl specimens. Dr. Goodell will be giving a talk at the Entomological Society of America meeting in Vancouver this week highlighting our work on the project. There is still plenty of work to be done and refinement of some IDs to do, so we are not ready to send out the final reports yet.

Female Andrena foraging on her host plant

I will be switching to processing bees from the 2021 and 2022 specialist bees for a few weeks. Then I hope to do a few trips to museums to access more reference specimens and meet with a few colleagues to discuss IDs of some of our harder groups. So that will take up the next few months. I will also be out of the lab for short trips and working on writing.

Undergraduate Research Updates:

Our bycatch bowl specimens are getting some attention thanks to work by Vanessa Chilcoat! She has been diligently processing, identifying, and analyzing the results of the robber flies that were accidentally caught in the 2020 bee bowls. With over 1,700 robber flies, it was no small task for an undergraduate!

Conference day, from left to right: Dr. Goodell, Vanessa Chilcoat, and MaLisa Spring

She presented a poster at the 2022 Autumn Undergraduate Research Festival at OSU. The PDF of her poster is here: Research Poster Final

We also included a small box of specimens to show people what the robber flies looked like in person.

No major updates on the hover fly project just yet, but we did finally get to hanging that poster up in the hallway!

Our hallway in the new building is pretty sparse, but we now have 2 posters on the wall. Soon, we hope to have the robber fly poster up too!

All for now,


October Bee Update – Museum visits and dealing with Nomada + Sphecodes

Hello again!

We are still hammering away at our remaining 2020 bees. The past several weeks I have been focusing on Nomada and Sphecodes, which are both groups of parasitic bees that sneak into other bee nests. These two groups are both frustrating and in dire need of revision to describe, update, and lump species groups. But, I am stuck with the taxonomy as it is now, so for some of them I might just end up lumping them as species group A, B, C, etc. I will continue to try to work on them and figure out what I have, but as with Lasioglossum, there is a learning curve that is best aided with good reference specimens.


Example pinned specimen of Sphecodes from the museum.

These are black and red bees in the family Halictidae. We have 159 specimens from our 2020 bowl samples. There are a few species that are easy to identify, like the ones with 2 submarginal cells or the species with the large bump on the top of the head (Sphecodes heraclei).

All bees have 2 compound eyes on the side of their head and 3 simple eyes (ocelli) in the top of their heads. For Sphecodes heraclei, it has a distinct mound in the center between the 3 ocelli.

The remaining Sphecodes are sorted into groups based on whether they have a tooth on their mandible, the punctation on the scutum (plate on back), abdominal punctation, and antennal length ratios.


Example of a female Nomada from the museum

The nomad bees are small to medium sized parasitic bees in the family Apidae. They are variable in color, but are often red, yellow, or black, with a variety of the colors mixed in. These bees are easily mistaken for predatory wasps given their lack of hair and striking coloration.

There is a large group of them that have a tooth on the mandible, that per comments from other taxonomists, we have decided to just lump as Bidentate Group. That accounted for about 40 specimens. That still leaves over 300 of non-bidentate Nomada. This group is a mess and needs taxonomic work, but I have tried to at least sort things. After sorting out the bidentate specimens, we then sorted them by size and then sex, since the males and females have very different characters used to identify them. For the females, we then sorted by clypeus color (red, orange, yellow, or black) and from those we sorted based on abdominal banding patterns (whether yellow bands were complete, narrowly broken, widely broken, or absent). For males, we sorted by scutellum color (red, black, black with yellow, black with red, and yellow), and whether the antennae had spines on the 3rd segment.

Example of one of our male specimens showing a spine on the underside of the third antennal segment after the scape and pedicel

Needless to say, we have things more organized, but still lacking names for several of these groups. So I decided to try to get reference specimens so I can more easily compare and learn the groups.

Trip to the Triplehorn Insect Collection:

Thankfully, we were allowed access to research specimens at the museum, so I spent a day looking through the collection and pulling specimens.

It was exciting to see my old bees from my undergraduate and graduate work. They now make up a nice portion of the bees in the museum.

The collection is many rows of movable cabinets that are on racks to save space.

Thankfully, most of the bees in the museum are in this one aisle, so I didn’t have to move the units very much to get to what I needed.

I started with looking at bees in a different parasitic group: Holcopasites. I was hoping to find a reference specimen to compare with for the dark abdomen species, but unfortunately there are none available here. I did stumble upon the H. elegans paratype that has since been weirdly lumped with H. stevensi ( a banded, not spotted species)

This is H. knulli, which has since been replaced as H. stevensi as well. Calling these two individuals the same species seems odd to me, so I expect someone to eventually go through and revise this group.

I also photographed the museum’s only specimen of Nomada tricurta. This rare bee is only listed from 5 localities on discoverlife. I did not borrow this specimen, but I was able to borrow about a dozen other species of Nomada.

I then spent time looking for Sphecodes reference specimens, but turned up mostly empty handed. Almost all of the collections Sphecodes are only identified to genus and thus I will have to search elsewhere for species level reference specimens. Onwards!

While looking through the collection, I also saw some other cool weird bees. This is a parasitic bee from South America that has a striking blue color!

Who can say no to this striking blue?

And this weird bee was in the unsorted bee boxes. I think it is probably a weird South American species of Ceratina. Check out those weird facial maculations!


Anyways, that is all I have for now. I will keep on chugging along and see what I can work out with the aid of the new Nomada references. I’m also looking into tracking down some Sphecodes reference specimens, so if you are a bee taxonomist and know of some that are easy access, let me know!


September Bee Update – Lasio Progress, September Bees, and New Cabinets!

This was the status of all that was left of our “easy” Lasioglossum on the 14th of September! We made it through the rest by the next day!

Bring out the kazoos! I made it through the 22,000 Lasioglossum, identifying what I could and setting aside the hardest ones for later. From that large hoard of bees, I was able to confidently identify about 18,000 of them to species! It helps that a large chunk of them were either Lasioglossum versatum or L. hitchensi. There are about 2,000 of the hardest Lasioglossum specimens left, which I will go back through later once I get more experience in these remaining tricky groups. About a quarter of those specimens are males, which I will likely lump as Lasioglossum sp. and call it a day. There were also a decent number of them that had lost heads or otherwise damaged during the washing and pinning process, so that group of bees were also left as Lasioglossum sp. and noted as damaged in the notes.

Now what?
We still have a few remaining groups from the 2020 bee bowls to identify. These include 193 Megachile, 159 Sphecodes, 325 Nomada, and 240 Osmia. Although they are lower numbers in comparison to the Lasioglossum, there will be a learning curve to properly identify them. So they will still take some time to get familiar with the different species. It also does not help that there are not as many recent publications on Sphecodes and Nomada, so those will be tricky to get through.

I reorganized the shelves to show the bulk of what is left to do in terms of ID for the 2020 bowl survey. We have 9 boxes of extra hard Lasioglossum, 2 boxes of Megachile, 1 box of Sphecodes, and 3 boxes of the non-bidentate Nomada.

Specialist bee project:

2021 specimens – We have a little over 1,900 specimens from the 2021 sampling. These still need identified, so once I make it through some of the bee bowl specimens, I will go back through and work on specialist bee samples.

2022 specimens – sampling is ongoing! September is still time for cool weird things like Pseudopanurgus and fall flying Andrena. So on nice days I will be doing field work and processing specimens from this summer. For those who are participating in the project, please work on getting them to me soon. I will be sending out emails to participants of the specialist project for specimen turn in logistics.

Other lab updates:

We have new cabinets! And they are in the lab!

It took a while for the new cabinets to be delivered to our building, but we have them and now have an assortment of colors! The 3 white ones are the new additions.

Inside each cabinet are 12 USNM drawers that will store the specimens that will go on to be archived at a museum. We are slowly having students transfer the identified specimens into the drawers for safekeeping. We also have many more drawers than will fit in the cabinets, as the drawers will be given to the museum (but the cabinets will stay in this lab).

All for now,


August Bee Update – Sandy Bees!

Hi everyone,

We have made good progress over the last few weeks. The number of remaining Lasioglossum boxes continue to dwindle. We started with over 22,000 Lasioglossum in March and are now down to under 8,000 Lasioglossum remaining! This can be visually represented by our Lasioglossum rack, which we entirely cleared and then refilled with the last remaining boxes of Lasioglossum. So what you see is what we have left to do.

Our progress as of the end of July. We had another rack with more Lasioglossum, so these got moved up.

We moved all the remaining Lasioglossum to this shelf, so you can now watch the remaining progress. These were moved at the end of July.

Our most recent progress showing all the boxes of remaining Lasioglossum on the bottom

I had also given the Hylaeus bees to the grad students to identify. With a little over 1,300 specimens, they made quick work of identifying them! Now to have those transferred into drawers for long term storage.

Example photo showing a female Hylaeus. These black and yellow bees look like tiny wasps. They carry pollen inside of their stomach and thus lack the normal pollen collecting hairs of other bees. These bees are easily overlooked by beginning bee enthusiasts, but we found many in our bowl traps.

We also ordered a shipment of drawers and cabinets to store our bees. The pizza boxes were always meant to be short term storage, so it is nice to have an additional 50 drawers for better long term storage! It took a bit, but our pallet of drawers was delivered to Columbus and is now awaiting transfer to the Newark campus.

3 cabinets and 50 USNM drawers all packed onto a single pallet from Canada!

I’m excited for the drawers, as these are what we will use to turn specimens in to the museum for long term archival. They are lightweight, sturdy, and hopefully keep dermestids out, or at least keep them out better than cardboard pizza boxes.

In between all the Lasioglossum identification, I have been doing periodic field work days. I managed to get a permit to a site with abundant sand, so I was happy to see several bees that are only known to nest in sand. As a quick refresher: 30% of bees nest in cavities, whereas the remaining 70% nest in the soil. Some bees are not picky about their soil type that they will use, but others can be really particular about the exact soil. There are many bees that are only known from sandy habitats and therefore thought to nest in sand. These include a few species of Lasioglossum, which often also have orange abdomens.

I had a few of these orange Lasioglossum checking me out last weekend. I couldn’t tell if they were interested in my sweat or if they were interested in my bright orange backpack. Either way, still nice to see.

There are several other groups of bees that are associated with sand, but that will be a topic for another post. If you happen to have a sandy area near you, it is worth checking out to see what weird bees you can find!

All for now,