196 bumble bee nest boxes, ready for installation at 14 sites across Ontario. Photo: Sarah Johnson

by Hayley Tompkins, 2017 Field Biologist, Bumble Bee Recovery

As a field biologist, there’s always work to do. Whether I’m in the office working on reports, or in the field conducting research, I’m always busy as a bee (pun intended!). But the best part about this job is what falls under the “other duties as assigned” category. Last spring, Sarah Johnson (Lead Biologist) and I built and installed 196 bumble bee nest boxes across south-central Ontario. It took us about five days straight, but we managed to cut and assemble over 1500 pieces of wood without anyone losing a finger. I guess that means I can add “amateur carpenter” to my resume.

A Confusing bumble bee colony in an artificial nest box, at Terre Bleu Lavender Farm in Milton, ON. Photo: Hayley Tompkins

Sarah and I installed boxes at 14 sites across south-central Ontario, as far south as Norfolk County and as far north as Sudbury. This project was introduced as a pilot program this year to see if bumble bees would occupy the artificial nest boxes. Our goal was to be able to use the boxes as a tool to monitor wild bumble bee colonies, including at-risk species like the yellow-banded bumble bee. Assembling all of the boxes required drilling in a couple thousand screws, which left my right thumb a little numb and tingly for several weeks; thankfully it was all worth it! We had ~10% occupation, with 6 different species occupying the boxes. The program was a huge success for the first year, and I can’t wait to see what happens next year.

One of the first yellow-banded bumble bee queens of the season. Photo: Hayley Tompkins

One of the best parts of conducting research across Ontario is all of the amazing places I get to visit. We’ve surveyed in wildlife reserves, national parks, provincial parks, and even just along roadsides. But everywhere we went, there was always something beautiful to discover. Whether it was the sand dunes at Inverhuron Provincial Park, the Canadian Shield in Sudbury, or the beautiful Beausoleil Island at Georgian Bay Island National Park, our team was always somewhere new and exciting.

One of our busiest times for surveys is when we are on the hunt for spring queens! If you’ve read some of our information online, you’ll know that an important part of the Bumble Bee Recovery Program is conservation breeding of the yellow-banded bumble bee.

We look forward to getting out there again this spring and seeing how many queens we can spot, and how many colonies take up residence in our boxes!