It takes a steady hand and great attention to detail to properly preserve insect specimens. Here, a group of Anthophorid bees have been pinned and arranged so we can see the details necessary to identify to species. Anatomical features such as the veins running through the forewing, the rear legs, and the mandibles can all be help identify which of Colorado's 1,000 bees these are.
Collecting specimens in the field is by far the most fun part of our project. But once captured, it take many weeks of work in the laboratory to curate the collection and figure out exactly who each bee is. Josh (right) and Camille (center) are two Cu undergrads helping pin, label, and barcode all of our bees. Collin (left), works on data entry.
On our first trip out in June, I learned first-hand how quickly the weather moves across the plains. This spectacular view was heading east down HWY 36. Luckily, the rain and lightning passed quickly and the bees,although a little wet, still came out to forage.
Colorado has a huge diversity of native bees. With nearly 1,000 different species of bees, we need a number of different types of techniques to determine which bees are present in an area. We use three primary means of capturing adult bees as the forage across the plains: bee bowls (left) are small colored cup that we fill with soapy water. These traps sample many of the smaller bee species in the area. We mount them on rebar so we can adjust their height as the grass grows over the season. Vane traps (right) are really effective at capturing large-bodied bees. We also get a number of different wasp species (an added bonus). We also use handheld nets (not pictured) to catch bees that are foraging on nearby flowers. Finally, we place bamboo nests (center) along the edges of fields to catch bees that like to nest in hollow stems and wood. This can allow us to see not only what bees are in the area, but also look at the pollen that they feed their young to determine the most important flowers for native bees.
A big part of the project early on involves building the materials we'll need to survey for native bees. Here, Collin (left) and Camille (a CU undergraduate) glue PVC together to make holders for elevated bee bowls. We place these in the field to capture small bees. Photos of the finished product are on the way!
In May 2013, I finally met the high plains of eastern Colorado! Bernadette (2nd from right) gave the rest of us a great introduction into the history and ecology of the plains. On the left, Collin and Theresa (a CSU undergrad) demonstrate how windy it was.
I am a Postdoctoral Associate at CU-Boulder and have lead a number of projects studying patterns of native bee diversity in Colorado. Please enjoy your visit and contact me if you have any questions.