Bumble Bees

From 2018 - 2020, my M.S. research focused on how tallgrass prairie restoration affects bumble bee abundance and species richness (# of species).  We found large 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 tool forbumble bee conservation.   

Since 2021, my research has been focused on 2 overarching questions: 1) Does tallgrass prairie restoration achieve the conservation goals of increasing and sustaining bumble bee populations? and 2) How does management of tallgrass prairie using prescribed fire impact bumble bee populations? 

Our previous work has demonstrated that bumble bee populations increase with tallgrass prairie restoration, but it is not known whether large increases in the number of bumble bees and number of species at tallgrass prairie restorations indicate true population growth or whether bees are being attracted from the surrounding landscape. 

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 bumble bees at points throughout their life cycle to gather a more holistic understanding of the impacts of restoration and fire. Specifically, we measure population size using nest counts paired with a genetics approach for estimating the number of nests. We also measure additional population genetics measurements such as genetic diversity and intergenerational survival as indicators of 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.