Ohio Native Bee Survey via Collection Kits

As part of our statewide effort to document native bees across Ohio, we have distributed 150 collection kits to collectors across Ohio. These collectors are gathering specimens once a week using bee bowls. The goal is to repeatedly sample the same site across the year to get a better understanding of the species turnover and therefore maximize the number of species we document across Ohio. Support for the Ohio Native Bee Survey via Collection Kits comes from The Manitou Fund. The sign-up for 2020 bowl project is now closed, but we do have a more targeted specialist bee project that you can sign up for here: https://u.osu.edu/beesurvey/native-bee-survey-via-specimen-collections/120-2/

Why contribute?

  • Be part of the first statewide Ohio bee list
  • Get a verified species list for your sample location
  • Learn sampling methods and how to prepare specimens*

Sampling method:

We plan to distribute easy to use kits for bee sampling

  • Sample once a week from first frost to last frost (early May – end of September)
  • 24 bee bowls (8 fluorescent Blue, fluorescent Yellow, and fluorescent White) will be half filled with soapy water and set out for 24 hours

Why lethal sampling?

Ohio has an estimated 400-450 species of bees in Ohio based on what has been found in other states. However, we have never had a statewide survey that attempts to document our own biodiversity. The Goodell and Mitchell Labs recently completed a bumblebee survey for Ohio, but that is only a subset of species we would expect.

A majority of bees are are not identifiable to species without viewing them under a microscope to see the characters necessary to differentiate them. Thus, we need to collect specimens to properly identify them.

Specimen collections generally do not have an impact on the overall bee population. The numbers of specimens collected in the traps are often less than what a typical bird consumes in a year or the amount of damage done with habitat loss and degradation.

For additional information on the pros and cons of lethal sampling, see: Pros and Cons of Lethal Sampling

What is included in a kit:

  • 24 colored bowls (3.25 oz. pan traps that are fluorescent blue, fluorescent yellow, or white)
  • 21 paint strainers (for straining field samples and then storing)
  • 21 Ziploc bags to store each week’s paint strainer in freezer
  • Box to put baggies in freezer (so the specimens do not dry out too much)
  • 2 sampling signs (transect/research in progress signs)
  • Blank specimen collection labels
  • Information request sheet
  • Instruction sheet (How to Sample)

You will need:

  • A clean 1 gallon container (Cleaned milk jugs are easy to carry. Avoid citrus jugs or clean them thoroughly to avoid any citrus. Ask neighbors if you don’t have any available)
  • Clean water
  • Dish Soap (Blue Dawn is ideal, avoid any floral or citrus scents)
  • Pencil
  • Clipboard (optional, but useful for your collection label sheet)
  • Scissors (to cut out your collection label sheet)
  • Access and transportation to your collection site

Note: Pinning and curation supplies are not necessary. These will be available at the planned pinning parties instead of in the sample kits. If you want to pin and process specimens, please attend one of the pinning parties detailed below.

Specimen Preparations – Pinning Parties:

There will be at least four bee sorting and pinning parties in the fall to manage specimens (Covid-19 permitting). We ask that you attend at least one of these to help curate your specimens and learn more about what you found. They will be announced later in the season, so be sure to check back. Additional pinning parties can be scheduled in the fall and winter as needed.

Specimen archival:

The Ohio Bee Survey will retain all specimens and potential bycatch for research in studying Ohio’s biodiversity. If you request, we might be able to make duplicates of species that you collected available for pickup that can be used for outreach displays and research once they have been identified and databased (pending stipulations of permits and your collection locations).

 Not sure if this project is for you? That is okay! You can still help document Ohio’s biodiversity by contributing to one of the following projects:

Want to learn more about bees in Ohio? 

Zoom Webinars: Check out the Zoom webinar recordings from this spring if you haven’t seen them already. See: https://u.osu.edu/certify/zoombees-webinar-recordings-2020/

Field guide to Ohio Bees: Fresh off the pdf converter, check out the first version of the Bees of Ohio: A Field Guide! Feel free to have this printed and bound at a print shop near you to have a handy physical copy.


To sign up for a specimen collection kit, please see below.

Sign-up for the collections kits in 2020 now closed. Thank you to the many people who applied!

We do have a more targeted specialist bee project that is ongoing. Information about that project can be found here: https://u.osu.edu/beesurvey/native-bee-survey-via-specimen-collections/120-2/