Hello bee enthusiasts! We hope you’re enjoying hearing about all of the exciting adventures and projects we’ve been working on this year. In case you’ve forgotten, or are just joining us, the Bumble Bee Recovery Program has three major areas of focus:

  1. Research and monitoring;
  2. Citizen science programs;
  3. Outreach and stewardship.

Today we’re going to introduce you to Hayley, and she’s going to tell you a little bit about one of our research and monitoring projects. Hayley began working for Wildlife Preservation Canada back in 2016, and just couldn’t stay away. She is currently enrolled at the University of Guelph pursuing an MSc degree, while also working part-time for the Bumble Bee Recovery Program. Her research, in collaboration with Wildlife Preservation Canada, will evaluate the effectiveness of artificial nest boxes as a conservation and monitoring tool for bumble bees.

Meet Hayley, Program Biologist for Wildlife Preservation Canada, and master’s student at the University of Guelph.

The nesting preferences of bumble bee species in Ontario is an understudied aspect of their ecology. To learn more about where different species are nesting, I installed 400 nest boxes at five sites in south-central Ontario. At each of the five sites, 40 nest boxes were installed aboveground (fixed to trees), and 40 were installed underground. Each site was visited at least three times throughout the summer to collect valuable habitat data surrounding occupied boxes, and to monitor colony development. The overall goal of this project is to gain a better understanding of the nesting preferences of bumble bees in Ontario, thereby allowing us to develop better conservation and management strategies to safeguard at-risk and declining bumble bee species.

Occupied underground nest box. Left: the entire nest box is installed underground, with only the PVC entrance shown. Right: close up of PVC entrance, with a bumble bee “fanning” to circulate air into the colony to cool it down on a hot summer day.

I’m still compiling and analyzing the data collected from my 2018 field season, but I’m excited to share that I’ve had nest boxes occupied by at least 4 different bumble bee species, including the confusing bumble bee, the common eastern bumble bee, the brown-belted bumble bee, and the two-spotted bumble bee. If you’re not sure what these species are, that’s okay – I’ll give you some tips at the end of this post on how to identify each of them! If you’re a regular bumbler, you might already be able to identify them by sight! To test your bumble bee identification skills, I’ve assigned a letter to each species below, and have put the answers at the end of the post. Let’s see how well you know some of your Ontario bumble bees!

Test what you know about identifying bumble bees! Here are four common bumble bees in Ontario, do you know which species they are? Answers and tips below!

In addition to our nest box project in Ontario, we have a citizen science project running at Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, in Alberta. This summer, 100 nest boxes were installed and monitored by 44 volunteers. Next week, we’re going to have Ashton, the Bumble Bee Recovery Team’s Alberta Citizen Science Coordinator, tell you a little bit more about the nest box project at Glenbow Ranch, and some of the highlights to-date.

We hope you continue to check back in with us to hear more stories from the field, learn new facts about bees, and much more. We were going to end this with a bee-pun, but we didn’t want to bug you (see what we did there?). See you next time!’

– The Bumble Bee Recovery Program

Bumble Bee Identification Tips and Answers:

To identify bumble bees by photograph, you can start with the colour pattern! Here’s a diagram so you know what I’m referring to:

Bumble bee anatomy diagram © BumbleBeeWatch.org

(A) – Common eastern bumble bee, Bombus impatiens. T1 in this species is yellow, and T2-T6 is black. You may have already noticed, but this is the species used in the diagram above.

(B) – Brown-belted bumble bee, Bombus griseocollis. T1 is yellow, T2 has a brown half-moon patch, and T3-T6 is black. This species is often confused with the endangered rusty-patched bumble bee, Bombus affinis, because it too has a brown/red patch on T2, but unlike in the brown-belted bumble bee, the brown/red colouration is completely surrounded by yellow.

(C) – Confusing bumble bee, Bombus perplexus. T1 and T2 are yellow, and T3-T6 is black. This species also has a completely yellow thorax, with no black hairs intermixed.

(D)– Two-spotted bumble bee, Bombus bimaculatus. T1 is yellow, and on T2 there is a W-shape, or two spots, surrounded by black. T3-T6 is also black.

How well did you do? If you want to practice your identification skills, you can photograph bumble bees, and upload your photos to www.bumblebeewatch.org. This website has an interactive ID key, and your observations will be verified by regional experts and use to help monitor bumble bee populations across North America.