Oct 12th – Drop off week! + sorting updates

Hello everyone!

I’m working on sending out the reminder emails to those who signed up to drop off their kits on a particular day. So expect those soon! And if you haven’t signed up to drop off your kit for a day this week, please go back through your email to fill out the drop off survey ASAP. We have an 80% response rate now, so I am pretty excited!

Other frequently asked questions:
Will I get a report for my results?
Yes! Everyone who participated will be emailed a list of species that was collected and identified from their site. For people collecting at parks and other locations, I will also send the report to that agency as well. Note that the focus will be on the bees, so only a select amount of the bycatch will be identified and counted. The list will mostly be focused on bee species and whatever else we can identify and pin properly. If we are able to identify anything else, we will try to include that in the reports. Any remaining bycatch will be given to other researchers and archived in a museum for future use.

Are you still going to do pinning training?
I am still working out the logistics for one on one pinning training for people who can make it to Newark. These will have to be scheduled in advance, but once I have the details down I will try to make them available here or via direct email. I am still trying to make sure we get all of the collection dates input into the database so we can have large batches of labels available first.

Will you do a zoom meeting to show us the sorting and pinning process?
I got our microscope camera working, so I can at least show people some bees up close and personal.  I will schedule a date later in the fall to show everyone some bees.


Sorting updates:

I will be moving away from facts of the week and instead start doing periodic sorting update posts. These will likely become only monthly posts, but we shall see.

I started sorting out specimens from one kit, just to start to get a flow to sorting going.

Here you can see the specimens are sorted by taxa, with bees in the petri dish, flies in the solo cup, butterflies destined to be enveloped, spiders in the tiny vial, and all other bycatch in the larger vial.

Same as above, but this also shows the hoverflies that were separated out and I had labels created by this point.

Once the bycatch is sorted, we can move on to washing the bees. I place the bees in little fabric bags and seal the bags with beaded zip ties. Then we swish them around in soapy water to clean them and dislodge any dirt sticking to them. Then comes the drying stage.

To maximize time efficiency, we bought an inexpensive tabletop mini-dryer. This allows us to dry several batches of bees at once to prepare them for pinning.

Here you can see several batches of bees in their bags. We tumble air dry until they are nice and fluffy again.

Once the bees are nice and dry, we move on to pinning them. Large bees get pinned through the thorax, but the smaller bees are instead glued to the pins to be processed more quickly (and easily as pinning tiny things is challenging).

Pinned and glued specimens, almost ready to go!

Once the bees are pinned, we add specimen labels. For the first step, we add individual specimen labels so we can keep track of them, and add date/location labels to the first in the series. Then once we know how many were collected in a series, we can make the right number of collection labels for the rest of the specimens.

 

So what have I found so far?

Well, a heck of a lot of bees! Now, I might have made a mistake in my choice of first kit to sort, in that this kit seems to have a LOT of bees. Checking the responses for the guestimation question, many people responded saying they think they only got 10-20 bees a week. Meanwhile, this collector guestimated that they got between 50 and 150 bees a week, and it looks like they are pretty close with their guestimation so far!

I have not yet pinned these specimens from their kit, but the petri dish was practically overflowing with bees!

As for bycatch, I have used the microscope camera to record some of the things like colorful leafhoppers, pincer wasps (Dryinidae) parasitizing leafhoppers, fairy wasps, and even tiny snails smaller than a grain of rice!

This tiny snail is a quarter the size of a grain of rice!

 

That is all I have for now.

 

Best wishes,

MaLisa

 

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