March 22 – Spring is here and more chances to help out in lab

Weekly progress:

Last week we finished sorting both kits by D. Winstel (Delaware County) and also finished sorting the kit be L. Raulinaitis et al. (Licking Co). We are over 16940 bees pinned and databased. We have sorted at least 36 of the kits, but still plenty of kits left to sort.

I am interested to see if we can get the progress trajectory to change. We are nothing if not consistent, so hopefully once we get more people to come in to help us, we can markedly increase the number of bees pinned each week.

Spring is finally here!

Spring flowers are finally starting to pop, so people are reporting both blooms and bees on iNaturalist. What will be your first bee of the year?

I had a single flower blooming in my yard early last week, and lo and behold, a queen bumblebee found it and slept inside it for two days! I now have a host of crocuses blooming and the daffodils will pop in a few days.

The Maple trees are also in full bloom in central Ohio. I have not noticed any bees on my yard tree, though it is still early.

It is also prime time to go look for Fairy Shrimp in a vernal pool near you. (and also salamanders, but I am biased towards invertebrates)

An adult fairy shrimp from a vernal pool with fingers for scale. These are weird, slow moving creatures that swim upside down and disappear after the waters are consistently above 60 degrees F. I have found them at about half a dozen vernal pools now. This one was found in a wetland on the west side of OSU’s campus in Columbus.

Helping in the lab in the age of Covid:

Wondering how you can help speed up our process? If you would like to come to the lab in Newark, there are several tasks that people can participate in. We will mostly have people start with pinning bees, but people can also be trained to sort bees from bycatch in samples, label specimens, or other lab tasks.

You do not have to be a collector to help out in the lab. You also do not have to help for the entire timeslot for a particular day, so if you are only interested in helping out for an hour or three, that still works. No one is obligated to spend the whole day pinning bees.

The lab is open to people interested in helping pin or sort specimens on a limited basis. For now, the following caveats must be reached: 1)  you have managed to get a covid vaccine, or 2) you have already gotten covid and recovered. If you fit one of these exceptions and want to come to the lab to help out, please sign up here:

Note we are still required to have masks on while on OSU property. We are still limiting our rooms to a maximum of 3 people, but we have additional classrooms down the hall to expand our capacity if more people want to volunteer at once.

Want to see how to get vaccinated against Covid-19 in Ohio or see if you qualify yet? See the vaccine distribution website here:

Note that people who are 40 and above are now eligible for the vaccine in Ohio! The qualifications have also expanded to many people with medical conditions including heart disease and obesity, among many others. Otherwise, vaccinations open up to all adults in Ohio after March 29th, so there is finally light at the end of the tunnel.

Specialist bee project:

You can still sign up to help with the smaller specialist bee project for this summer! Instead of setting even more bowl traps, our goal for this summer is to target plants known to host specialists bees. So if you would like to participate in a more hands on project of hand collecting bees, see our project here:

This also will coincide with our specialist bee guide that we are hard at work on finalizing. The guide will be organized by plant host so that you can hopefully learn to recognize the plant to then be able to monitor for potential specialist bees.

Bycatch of the Week:
We still had plenty of things in the 3 kits sorted this week too.

There is only one ant in this photo, but can you guess which? The top individual is an ant, but the bottom insect is actually an immature broad headed bug! The true bugs have distinct piercing sucking mouthparts, which is very different from the chewing mouthparts of ants. Many people confuse the broad headed bugs with ants and they do make quite convincing mimics. These specimens were from Winstel’s kit in Delaware.

More poorly understood insects! The kit by Winstel also had the rare Forcepflies that we covered back in August. We still do not know what these insects eat or what their larvae look like. But this makes at least three specimens that have been caught in bee bowls so far. They could be initially mistaken for cockroaches given their drab appearance (and I did get excited for a brown cockroach the week prior, as I initially thought it was also a forcepfly, but alas, it was only a cockroach)

We also got another one of the weird ants in the genus Dolichoderus. So it seems we now have found several sites with this weird ant genus. This specimen was collected by D. Berube from the Licking county kit.

Perhaps the shape that haunts many of us, this is not Covid, but instead some very similar looking large pollen grains that were collected by a long-horned bee. Pollen comes in many shapes, sizes, and colors, so hypothetically someone can identify these pollen grains to figure out what plant it came from. It looks most similar to Hibiscus pollen to me.

That is all for now,


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