Test Run for 2020 –  Targeted Ohio Specialist Bee-Flower Associations Project

We are currently working on a statewide survey of bees across Ohio. To do this, we have enlisted collectors across the state to collect bees with bee bowls.

However, bee bowls do not help us determine what flowers the bees were visiting when we collect them and we are limited in the number of bowl kits we can distribute across the state. Thus, we have a second branch of our survey where we are asking people to search for specific bees.

Bees can be broadly broken up into two pollen collecting strategies: Specialists or Generalists. An estimated 25% of bees in Ohio are considered floral specialists, meaning they only visit a very small number of floral species. (See the current list of known pollen specialist bees of Eastern North America here: https://jarrodfowler.com/specialist_bees.html). The more information we can gather about what bees are visiting, the better we will be able to help them in the future.

Bees are particularly hard to identify and many require microscopic features to confirm to species. Thus, this project will be focused on lethal sampling of bees directly from specific types of flowers. For additional information on the pros and cons of lethal sampling, see: Pros and Cons of Lethal Sampling

Goals of the Targeted Ohio Specialist Bee-Flower Associations project:

  • Locate specific specialist bees of Ohio plants
  • Contribute to the first county and state list of bees in Ohio

Challenge level: Medium to Difficult. This project will rely on you to learn specific flowers (resources provided). We do not expect you to know how to identify bees, but knowing the broad groups of bees and their differences will help you increase your chances of finding a specialist.

What you will need:

  • Depending on your collecting method – either a jar, bag, net, etc.
  • Paper and pencil
  • Freezer space
  • Written permission to collect specimens, if collecting at a location that is not your own
  • Not required, but useful: Knowledge of some plants, a wildflower guidebook, access to other plant identification resources, a camera, or access to the internet


How we will help:

  • Email updates and target lists: By signing up for this project, you will get regular emails throughout the summer of what to expect flying, and which plants to watch for specialist bees. We know of some species of bees that should be found on certain plants that are common, but are still hard to find for some reason
  • Pinning Parties: In the fall, you can hopefully attend pinning parties (pending pandemic status), where we will train you how to pin and prepare specimens if you are interested. Pinning and curatorial supplies will be provided on the caveat that we get to retain one specimen of each species
  • Identification assistance: Once the specimens are properly pinned and labelled, they can be identified. Identification is one of the hardest parts of a bee survey, as there are somewhere between 350 and 500 species of bees expected to be in Ohio. Even though we will have collected these bees from specific plants, we will likely collect many generalist bees that are also visiting. So the plant host will give us a good hint as to what the bee species might be, it does not guarantee that the bee is actually the floral specialist known to be associated with the flower.
    • We ask that we be able to retain one of each species, so that it can be preserved in the museum for research for decades to come


Does this sound like a fun challenge to you? Sign up for this project by filling out the form below. This helps us keep track of who is collecting bees in Ohio, specify collecting methods, share dates for pinning parties, and send out details on species to be expected.

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.

If you would like to receive the emails for the 2020 test run of the Targeted Ohio Specialist Bee-Flower Associations Project, please fill out the form below.