Bumble Bees

From 2018 - 2020, my M.S. research broadly focused on how tallgrass prairie restoration affects bumble bee abundance and species richness (# of species). We found huge increases the number of bees and the number of species of bees when sites were planted with native prairie vegetation. This indicates that tallgrass prairie restoration may be an effective conservation tool for bumble bees.

Since 2021, my research has diving deeper into understanding whether tallgrass prairie restoration achieves the conservation goals of increasing and sustaining bumble bee populations. Do large increases in the number of bumble bees and number of species at tallgrass prairie restorations indicate population growth or are bees being attracted from the surroundings? Is tallgrass prairie restoration a solution for sustaining bee populations over the long-term? And how does management of tallgrass prairie (e.g., prescribed fire) impact bumble bee populations?

I am answering these questions using a diverse set of methods across scientific fields. We are continuing to measure abundance and species richness, but are also measuring population size using nest counts and a genetics approach for estimating population size (# of nests). In addition, other population genetics measurements such as genetic diversity and intergenerational survival can indicate population health.

We are measuring bumble bee populations across Southern Wisconsin at restored tallgrass prairies that range in management with prescribed fire.

Bumble Bee Nesting Content

Brown-Belted Bumble Bee Nest

One of the first nests we found during my PhD research, in May 2021 in Madison, WI.

Inside a Bumble Bee Nest

Take a peak at a Brown-Belted Bumble Bee worker inside its nest.

Tissue Sample Collection

I walk through how I collect tissue samples from bumble bees for genetic-based analyses such as nest density, genetic diversity, and foraging distance.