Begone 2020! Onwards to more bees and other finds

2020 Accomplishments:

  • If you are reading this, then we made it through the year 2020. Congratulations!
  • Despite the ongoing pandemic, we shipped 155 kits to 87 of the 88 counties in Ohio. Lisa Lebovitz and Denise Ellsworth were key in getting the kits put together and shipped across the state. Thanks Lisa and Denise! And thanks to everyone who signed up to set out a kit. We could not have done this without you.
  • Despite the ongoing pandemic, we had a return rate of over 75% of the kits we shipped! That is an amazing return rate on a normal year. I know a few more people still have kits that they hope to turn in eventually, so maybe we can get that return rate to 80 or 85%? Thanks so much to everyone who participated as this is a phenomenal¬† achievement!
  • Amy Schnebelin lead the charge in adapting a field guide to have our own Field Guide to Ohio Bees! Thanks to Amy for making that cool guide happen!
  • Despite limited lab visitation, we have managed to pin over 9,000 bees! We also pinned 700+ hoverflies (Syrphidae) and 200+ robberflies (Asilidae). This is from sorting just 19 of the 120 kits that were returned so far.
  • We hired a student worker. She applied and received funds to research the hoverflies from the bycatch of the project!
  • Over $1,200 was donated to the project to contribute to research supplies. These will fund much needed pins, boxes, and other sorting materials. Thanks to everyone who donated!
  • We posted over 40 blogs like this to keep everyone informed on progress and hopefully spread some buggy joy.

Where will 2021 take us?

  • Sorting + Pinning: We still have over 100 kits left to sort. We had originally hoped that the pandemic would be better by now, but alas, that is not the case. We had a few people in the lab to help sort and pin specimens before cases got above 3,000 a day. I’m still waiting for those daily case numbers for Ohio to go back down before having people back in the lab. The exceptions I will make is if you have managed to get both doses of a covid vaccine or have already gotten covid, recovered, and can show both + then – covid tests. So for the time being, I don’t expect many people to fit into those exceptions.
  • Identifying: I will start identifying the pinned and labelled specimens soon. I’ve been spending every Friday working on Lasioglossum, but will likely switch one day of the week from sorting over to identifying. The pinned specimens are taking up a large section of the wall and at our current rate, we might run out of space in the lab for pinned specimens. I’m hoping I can at least identify a few boxes so those identified boxes can then be transferred to a space at Dawes where they can be safely stored.

These are filled with the 9000+ bees. We have already run out of shelf space, so sorting through a few is key.

  • Creating resources: I’m working on a specialist bee guide to make it easier to target specialist bees! TBD on how long it will take to create, but I’m optimistically thinking we might have something usable eventually. But as with all things during a pandemic, who knows.
  • Sampling: Pending progress on the specialist bee resource above and also on whether we manage to identify more specimens, we might have a new sampling project for summer 2021 that involves much more limited and targeted collection of specialist bees. However, lots of factors in play, so hard to say at this point. We are definitely not doing bee bowls for a second year to avoid even more overwhelming workload on my part.

Progress and Bycatch of the week:

We sorted 2 kits last week, completely sorting and pinning the kit from P. Boyer (Wayne Co.) and starting on the kit by D. Reiser (Summit  Co.).

We had another case of “I’m going to need a bigger vial.” This was definitely the largest caterpillar so far.

Boyer also had an abundance of tiny moths (little brown things in lower left corner with grain of rice for scale). Micro moths are extremely challenging to ID, but we still saved them in case someone is willing to try. Many micromoths are leaf miners. They tend to eat the inner layer of leaf tissue, leaving the outer layers as protection. To learn more about leaf miners, see the project:

Boyer had three types of ants common in the samples, so I decided to line them up for a group photo next to a grain of rice.

The kit by Boyer also had a cool weevil (left), and two dark ladybeetles (center and right). Most people overlook these tiny black ladybeetles, but they can be somewhat common in many areas. Rice for scale.

This lovely little larvae was clinging to one of the mining bees in the kit by D. Reiser. I believe this is a blister beetle larvae, which are known to parasitize bees! Adult blister beetles lay eggs on flowers. The larvae then cling to a visiting adult bee, thus hitching a ride back to the bees nest. See more on blister beetles here: Rice for scale on the right and bee legs on the left.

And who doesn’t love a little Lace Bug (family Tingidae)? These tiny walking pieces of art are common on some types of trees. Alas, most lace bugs are much too small for the average person to admire them. This photo was taken by Bryan Zake and is of the same specimen photographed here:

Here is our rice for scale for the same lacebug as above. They may be small, but they sure are beautiful.

Bryan also photographed this oddly proportioned fly that was found in Reiser’s kit. It is possibly a Tachinid or Bristle fly.

What is that bodypart?

Only one person guessed on our mystery bodypart from last week. Rich Bradley gets points for correctly guessing the order of the insect leg.

Who am I?

The leg above is the hindleg of a grasshopper, which would be order Orthoptera and family Acrididae.

Bee and relevant scientific articles:

On bowl color and wasp preferences:
There has been a lot of work trying to figure out the best colors for sample traps. There are a lot of papers already written on what colors attract the most bees, but the paper linked above also highlights the ideal colors for other wasps. Perhaps unsurprising to most wasp researchers, yellow caught the most wasps (both in abundance and species richness), followed by fluorescent yellow, white, blue, and fluorescent blue. Red and clear traps caught only a fraction of wasps, which makes sense given the habitat (red traps are considered better in desert habitats, but this research was of forested habitat in Maryland). When looking at just bees, the yellow, fluorescent yellow, white, fluorescent blue, and blue all performed similarly (with the clear and red traps again performing poorly). They also found that despite the different colors of traps catching similar numbers of bees, some bees were only found in certain color traps. Thus, having a multiple colors of traps (not just all fluorescent yellow or all fluorescent blue) is important for sampling bees. Yay us for already using the multiple colors. 

That is all for now,


4 thoughts on “Begone 2020! Onwards to more bees and other finds

  1. It will be interesting to compare the bees collected from my yard in Wooster (Wayne Co.) to the bees collected by Peter from Wooster Memorial Park (Wayne Co.). The park is about 4 miles from my yard in the city, as the bee flies.

  2. This project has turned into the gift that keeps on giving. We (my wife and I) really look forward to receiving your email. Can’t wait to see what was in collected in our prairie area!

  3. Amazing post! Thanks for all the details! I love the fact that you are providing all of this follow up information. I hope you will be able to continue.

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