Citizen Scientists In Idaho Can Help Declining Bumblebees

Jun 4, 2018

Biologists are putting out the call to citizen scientists to help them map the bumblebee population in Idaho. 

The Pacific Northwest Bumble Bee Atlas Project is a conglomeration of Idaho Fish and Game, Washington Fish and Wildlife and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

Biologists have observed steep declines of bumble species over the last few decades. Some species have fallen off by as much as 80 percent.

“So we realized that we needed to get a better handle of what our bumblebee populations are looking like in Idaho,” says Ross Winton with Idaho Fish and Game.

They got funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to do a Pacific Northwest inventory of bumblebees. They’re asking citizen scientists to spread across the state and use their smartphones and cameras to take pictures of bumblebees. There’s a “Bumblebee Watch” app for your phone to help you identify your bee. 

Credit BumbleBCons / Flickr

In the project, the state map is broken up into 25 kilometer grid cells.

“[Citizen scientists are] committing to go to that grid cell twice during the season and monitor the bumblebees that are at that site,” says the biologist.

He says once you adopt a grid cell, it’s only a commitment of two half-days with a 45-minute survey each day.

“It gets people out and about in places they’re probably already recreating anyway … it’s a cool opportunity,” says Winton.

They’ve got 50 grid cells already adopted out of 136 in Idaho. It’s a three-year project that will go to 2020.

“We’re starting with almost no knowledge whatsoever on some of these species."

Credit BumbleBCons / Flickr

Ultimately, Winton's hoping to find more about the Western Bumblebee, which has been petitioned to be put on the Endangered Species List. He says there are very few records of the bee; in the last 90 years they have maybe 20 observations of the species.

He says the project will help scientists get a better snapshot of how many bees there are in the region, and where conservation work might be needed to preserve them.

Find Samantha Wright on Twitter @samwrightradio

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