Aug 2nd – Event and collection reminder plus facts of the week

Collection kit sampling reminder:
For those of you with collection kits, this is your reminder to try to put out your traps sometime this week, weather permitting. Please wait at least 7 days from your last sample date

If you can no longer put out your collection kit, please let me know so we can work on getting the kit into the hands of another volunteer instead.

Bee facts of the week: 

This is the inside of an experimental  nest of the Common Eastern Bumblebee (Bombus impatiens). Disclaimer: Do not open or attempt to dig up bumblebee nests. This entire nest was frozen and all bees are dead in this image. Bumblebees are likely to defend their nests if perturbed and unlike honey bees, they keep their stingers and can sting repeatedly if necessary.

  • Bumblebees (Genus Bombus, Family Apidae) are a group of our social native bees. Unlike honey bees with their colonies that can last several years, bumblebee colonies are annual, with new queens overwintering, then creating their new colonies in the spring. Their nests are much messier than the classic hexagonal shape of honey bees and instead can be described as messy pots of larvae and nectar. The pots of nectar are dilute, and thus cannot be the sugar concentration required to be considered USDA grade honey (nor would you want to go through the effort to harvest it).
  • Many bumblebees are considered generalists, meaning they will forage on a variety of available resources.  Many species of bumblebees can be found foraging on Wild Bergamont (Mondarda fistulosa), and its cousin, Scarlet Bee Balm (Mondarda didyma). I definitely wish I had these plants in my backyard sooner as they bring in quite the flurry of bees.

ID tip of the week:

Note the pattern of brownish hairs on T2 to determine that this is a Brown-Belted Bumblebee (Bombus griseocollis)

  • Bumblebees (Genus Bombus, Family Apidae) are most likely to be confused with large Carpenter bees (Xylocopa virginica), but the latter have wider heads, and lack dense hairs on the top of their abdomen. Another Bumblebee look-alike is the Hibiscus Turret Bee (Ptilothrix bombiformis), which is a specialist on Hibiscus flowers and associated with wetlands. The Hibiscus bee has shorter, dense yellow hairs on its head and thorax and relatively long legs. Another rare bee that people sometimes confuse for bumblebees are the Digger bees in the genus Anthorphora. The bumblebee mimics in this genus (A. bomboides and A. abrupta) are not common, so not many people get the chance to mess them up. See the earlier post covering Anthophora to differentiate them.

Note the pattern of yellow on T2 to determine that this is a female Two-spotted Bumblebee (Bombus bimaculatus)

  • There are 5 species of Bumblebees that are now relatively common in Ohio, though more than 10 species have been reported in Ohio historically. The most common bumblebee is the aptly named Common Eastern Bumblebee (Bombus impatiens), which only has yellow on the first abdominal segment with the rest black. The nest image above is Bombus impatiens. The second most commonly reported species for Ohio is the Brown-belted Bumblebee (Bombus griseocollis), which has darker wings and half of the second abdominal segment (t2) brown or yellowish. It can be confused with the Two-spotted Bumblebee (Bombus bimaculatus), but the later has the yellow more restricted to the center of t2 and is more often an early season species, with many colonies disappearing around this time of year. Another crowd-pleaser is the Golden Northern Bumblebee (Bombus fervidus), which has yellow on most of its thorax and abdominal segments, which  sets it apart from most of the other common species of bumblebees. The main source of confusion is with the Perplexing Bumblebee (Bombus perplexus), which can be perplexing to identify with its variable coloration. In general, the Perplexing Bumblebee is a richer yellow color than most of its cousins and limited black on the back of its thorax.

The abundance of yellow on the thorax and abdomen helps identify this pair as Golden Northern Bumblebees (Bombus fervidus)

Meanwhile, this male Perplexing Bumblebee (Bombus perplexus) is likely to be confused with the Golden Northern bumblebees, but lacks the black on the thorax.

  • I would be remiss to not mention the federally endangered species of bumblebee that used to be common in Ohio, but has declined so much that we have no recent records. That is the Rusty-patched Bumblebee (Bombus affinis), which has t1 all yellow and t2 with a rust colored patch surrounded by yellow, filling the segment. The likelihood of spotting the Rusty-patched Bumblebee in Ohio is now low, though not impossible. It is most similar to the Half-backed Bumblebee (Bombus vagans), which has the entire segment of t2 yellow and no rust color. The Rusty-patched Bumblebee is often confused with the Brown-belted Bumblebee, which does have a rusty patch on t2, but is not surrounded by yellow. For a good ID guide comparing the look alike species, see this great guide by the University of Minnesota:

What’s that bycatch?
  • Sometimes other small insects or arthropods also land in our traps. Although they are not our intended focus of this project, I will try to give a little bit of info about different groups we might see in our traps. So hopefully you learn a little  entomology along with all of our awesome bee knowledge. If you want a specific group covered that you are seeing a lot of in your traps, let me know!

This bowl does not have any bees in it, but there are some springtails, parasitic wasps, some flies, and an Isopod.

  • Isopods (sometimes call sowbugs, pillbugs, or rolly-polies) are common arthropods across Ohio. However, many people do not realize that they are actually crustaceans, not insects. There are over 10,000 species of Isopods worldwide, though many of them are aquatic instead of terrestrial.

This isopod was crawling high on a yarrow plant around midnight. Normally, the isopods are found under logs and larger rocks during the day, but they come out and explore during the night

  • In general, isopods can be considered decomposers that often forage on decaying leaf litter. They prefer moist habitats, so during the driest parts of the day they might be hiding in the soil or under logs. On humid nights, I have seen them climb out on top of plants, sometimes several feet off the ground. They can potentially be problematic as they can change the leaf litter composition in forests (along with the lovely invasive earthworms).

Is that a bee?

  • In this brief section, I will show a photo of a bee bowl and let you guess how many of the insects are actually bees. Don’t worry about properly identifying bees in your bowls.  This is just so you can start to recognize some of the bees during the season and get an idea of how many bees you actually have.

How many bees do you see? Can you identify anything in this bowl?





Okay, did you make your guesses?


There are at least 5 bees in this image, with maybe a sixth indicated by the question mark. The angle makes it hard to see all the characters, so I am not sure about that one. They are all likely sweat bees in the family Halictidae, with the green one in the genus Agapostemon. There is also an ant, small fly, and some springtails in this image.

Also, there will be a Bee Survey update webinar on August 10th at 4:30 PM to discuss the status of the Ohio Bee Survey and our possible next steps. I will also recap some “ID Tips for Bedraggled Dead Bees in Water.”  Don’t worry if you can’t attend live; we’ll post the recording link.

Topic: Bee Survey update
Time: Aug 10, 2020 04:30 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 949 9053 3812
One tap mobile
+13017158592,,94990533812# US (Germantown)
+13126266799,,94990533812# US (Chicago)

If you require an accommodation such as live captioning or interpretation to participate in this event, please email MaLisa and we will try to get the needed accommodations.

To see the rest of the dial in numbers, click here to see the original post.


Best wishes,


After posting this, Dr. Rich Bradley contacted me to share his video of an observational bumblebee colony. So it should hopefully be embedded below if this saves properly.You can see the larger pots, which were likely for queens or some of the first large workers. You can also see the nectar gleaming in some of the open pots.

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