Today we wanted to take a quick minute out of the holiday season to highlight something that the Bumble Bee Recovery Team has been so grateful for in our quest to protect and recover bumble bees in Canada—Bumble Bee Watch! Our efforts to conserve Canada’s bumble bees are in vain without help from our volunteer citizen scientists across the country. As such, a lot of the work that we do involves continuously developing and improving our bumble bee citizen science programs. Bumble bees offer up a unique opportunity to engage citizen scientists in population monitoring because they can often be identified to species from photos, and this has enabled us to design citizen science programs centred around BumbleBeeWatch.org! We thought today would be a great day to finally show you all a bit more about the amazing Bumble Bee Watch platform we keep talking about!

Our citizen science programs are for volunteers of all ages! Here we have a young child collecting bumble bees off of flowers as part of a survey workshop at Grundy Lake Provincial Park, and other volunteers photographing our reference collection of bumble bees in Ontario! Photo © Tiffani Harrison

Launched in 2014, Bumble Bee Watch is an interactive citizen science platform designed to track and conserve North America’s bumble bees. Now with apps for both iOS and Android, users can easily upload their bumble bee photos and use the region-specific identification tools embedded in the software to identify their bumble bee observation to species. Their submission is then verified by regional experts and the record becomes part of an ever-growing database that is a valuable tool for bumble bee conservation and research efforts across North America.

If you haven’t submitted an observation to Bumble Bee Watch before, check out this video! Once you’ve uploaded a photo, you will answer questions about the Face, Thorax, and Abdomen! If you don’t know the answer, you can select Not Sure. Once you’ve answered the questions, you will be given a list of options that match your choices. Choose the best fit to submit your observation!

 

The yellow-banded bumble bee (left) and the western bumble bee (right). These observations were collected as part of our citizen science program in Alberta and were submitted to Bumble Bee Watch, contributing valuable data to the program! Photo © Sarah Johnson

Bumble Bee Watch is gaining support year after year! Nearly 35,000 individual bumble bee records have been submitted, with records from every state, province, and territory. There are expert-verified records for almost all 46 North American species, and these records have a proven ability to help locate rare species.

A map of all verified observations on Bumble Bee Watch. Thanks to all of the volunteers for their time and commitment to this project! Photo © BumbleBeeWatch.org

A yellow-banded bumble bee queen that was collected for use in our conservation breeding program. Wildlife Preservation Canada staff first surveyed this location for the yellow-banded bumble bee thanks to an observation submitted to Bumble Bee Watch by a citizen scientist! Photo © Hayley Tompkins

It’s no secret that as researchers, our time and resources are limited, and Bumble Bee Watch has vastly increased the amount of information we are able to accumulate each bumble bee season. Citizen Scientists are helping researchers across North America, like those working for our Bumble Bee Recovery program, tackle important questions in bumble bee ecology. Personnel resources are a huge limiting factor in any research program, and we believe that our citizen science programs are positively impacting the availability of usable bumble bee data by engaging citizens and promoting the platform across the country.

Volunteers from our very first Citizen Science Program at Pinery Provincial Park in 2015 (left), and participants at our first Train the Trainer workshop in 2018 (right). We believe that our Train the Trainer workshops will be vital to the development and success of even more Citizen Science Programs across the country. Photos © Sarah Litterick, Carley Borja.

We want to thank each and every one of the citizen scientists that contribute valuable data to Bumble Bee Watch, and the expert verifiers across North America that spend countless hours verifying submissions. If you’re interested in participating in one of our formal citizen science programs, stay tuned for more information about our locations and programs for 2019! And, we certainly hope you take a minute to check out Bumble Bee Watch and see what all of us here at the Bumble Bee Recovery Team are always raving about!

– The Bumble Bee Recovery Program