Ohio Bee Atlas project in its fourth year

Larry Limpf

A project designed to track the populations of endangered bumble bees in Ohio with the help of residents armed with cell phones, cameras or other devices is entering its fourth year.
The Ohio Bee Atlas, a statewide citizen science project, was started in 2017 to jumpstart public input in the wake of one Ohio species – the rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis) – being listed as endangered.
The Ohio State University and partner agencies maintain the atlas through which residents can upload photographic images of bees. Entomologists then identify the images for placement on the atlas that utilizes the iNaturalist platform to document the distribution and identity of bumble as well as other bees.
The rusty patched bumble bee was commonly found throughout Ohio, living in habitats such as prairies, woodlands, marshes, farm fields, parks and gardens.
Researchers estimate its population has declined by about 87 percent in the last 20 years and is likely to be present in only 0.1 percent of its historical range that also included Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Ontario, Canada.
“Bees, including bumble bees, honey bees and many other species, are facing threats such as loss of nesting and food habitat, diseases, pesticides, intensive farming and global climate change,” Denise Ellsworth, of the OSU Bee Lab, said when the project was initiated. “These threats have contributed to the decline of the rusty patched bumble bee, which is now in danger of becoming extinct.”
Cleveland Metroparks, Lake Erie Allegheny Partnership for Biodiversity, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Summit Metro Parks, The University of Akron and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are partnering with OSU on the project.
In addition to being important pollinators of crops and wildflowers, bumble bees are also vital for creating seeds and fruits that feed wildlife, according to research by the fish and wildlife service.
Photos of the backs and faces of bees are most useful for identification.
iNaturalist is a free app that can also be used on the computer.
Although the project focuses on bees, observations of anything living or formerly living (such as birds, feathers, flowers or fossils) can be uploaded to iNaturalist.
Experts weigh in to help identify observations, Ellsworth said. Find out more at: http:// inaturalist.org
For more information about the Ohio Bee Atlas project, visit go.osu.edu/ohiobeeatlas. Ellsworth can be reached at ellsworth.2@osu.edu.


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