The weather got a lot better this week west of the Cascades and we finally had a full big spring bee flight. There were several reports of active beds of the solitary ground-nesting bees of the genus Andrena in urban areas, along with their accompanying bee and fly nest parasites. So the sampling season has come to Oregon and its time to get out there and get some bees! But we know some of the groups still need supplies, some groups still need to pull together their first sampling sessions and there are still a lot of questions on how to get started.
1. This week on iNaturalist
Five more people joined the iNaturalist (Regional Teams) project this week. It looks like collectively we caught 172 bees this past week! Its nice to see bees being registered on both sides of the Cascades and on the Coast. Fantastic. The other great news was that Michael O'Loughlin with the Yamhill group doggedly followed up with iNaturalist folks and got the glitch on iPhones worked out. Thanks Michael. Check last week's blog for how to use the app to record your sampling locations.
We finally got a fresh shipment of bee nets, pins and 'Bees of Oregon' postcards. Also, the Oregon Bee Atlas t-shirts have arrived! Also, the cavity nesting bee boxes are in the final steps of assembly by our undergraduate workers and are ready for you to put up. Project leaders let Jen know if you have any outstanding equipment needs and we will try and get a final shipment out next week.
3. Survey Dates
We'd like to include your regular survey dates in this weekly blog. I know people from other groups may be interested in joining you on your survey days and it will also let us know if groups are having trouble getting off the ground. Send your survey dates and meet up locations to me by Saturday of the week before the blog and I will include it.
Linn-Benton Group Bee Collection -Twice each month
When: Second Friday of every month (2pm – 4pm)
Where: Sunset Park, 4567 SW Country Club Drive, Corvallis, OR 97333, (map)
When: Forth Saturday of every month (11am - 1pm)
Where: Oak Creek Center for Urban Horticulture, 2750 SW Campus Way, Corvallis, OR 97331,
The Linn-Benton Group will meet up and park at Oak Creek Center for Urban Horticulture.
Link to map of Oak Creek Center for Urban Horticulture (OCCUH)
Entrance to OCCUH is on the east side of SW 35th St., between SW Washington Way and SW Western Blvd.
4. Oregon Bee Atlas Eye Candy
5. Questions that Came up this Week
A flurry of questions. Please email these to Andony and Sarah and we will include them in our weekly review.
Q: What if I caught bees emerging from cocoons or from a nesting site - how do I record this?
A: Catching a bee at a nesting location is great; it can be as important as a floral record. If you are using iNaturalist, take pictures of the nesting site, nest opening and/or cocoon, etc and upload them along with the record of the number of bees you catch. If you get your bee from a nesting block (e.g., like mason bee block), record the dates the block was up and diameter of the holes in the notes. If you come across a ground nesting bed, make sure to also collect any cuckoo bees or fly parasites (even if you are not sure if they are) that are hovering around the bed.
Q: It has been cold and wet so some of us have spent up to an hour to just collect 1-3 bees.
A: You guys are real troopers! Early bees are notoriously hard to get, because conditions are rarely ideal. But we know you have busy lives, so things are looking poor, you may consider cancelling or rescheduling your sampling effort. Bees generally don't fly if temperatures are below 55F, if its raining or if its really windy. Trust us, when things get moving you will be catching 50 bees per hour.
Q: After we collect our bees and people take them home, when do we pin them? Does everyone need a pinning box?
A: Great question. We would certainly encourage people to collect outside of the group days. Collect all you can - it will help you learn the taxonomy. We originally were not sure we could afford a box for each person, but we are looking into cheaper versions. So, in your requests, include a box for everyone who wants one.
Q: Do team leaders need to hold on to frozen bees? That's a lot of freezer space!
A: Yes, it really could be. Freeze your bees over night and pin them up. I would try and pin up your frozen bees within a week of collection. You can leave them there longer, but its better to not wait too long. For groups using ethyl acetate, you can pin up right after your collection trip.
Q: Should we pin our bees up as a team?
A: Pinning parties are totally encouraged. Put on some good music (Andony recommends the Chemical Brothers). Share you best finds with your teammates. Tell jokes. But pinning up alone is also possible - especially if there is a Stanley Cup playoff game on TV :)
Q: If we don't have a pinning box, should we just pin into some foam?
A: Yes, that can work. Make sure its placed in a tupperware container or some sort of box to make sure the specimens are not disturbed.
Q: Nest blocks. Are there instructions for putting them up?
A: Apologies; we had hoped to put up an instructional video by now, but we have been on the move. To get things started, here are some basics. First, put the blocks up on some kind of post facing east. These should not put in full shade, but some shade is ideal. They should be placed adjacent to a flower patch. Groups have two kinds of blocks - the blue pipes and the wooden laminated blocks.
- The pipes have a bracket and can be screwed into wood. Use a Sharpy and write on the tubes the name of your team (e.g., Klamath Falls) and number it (1, 2, 3, etc.)
- The blocks come with a zip strap and these can be slipped under the white straps that bind the blocks together and then cinched onto a post or a tree.
- In a perfect world the tubes would be placed within 50 feet of the blocks; but if you have already put them up, no worries.
- Get a GPS coordinate for where the blocks are placed. We will set up an iNaturalist group to facilitate data entry. The blocks DO NOT just have to be at your regular collection sites; put them up anywhere you have permission (we are in the process of findings some locations from ODOT).
- The blocks should go up now and stay up until September, at which time you will bring them all in and we will pick them up. The plan is that we will winter them at OSU, incubate them and then pin up the bees.
Q: During our collection trip, we wondered how far apart we should consider one collection site. For example, the only plants we collected from along the river were wax currents. We’re hoping that we don’t have to get a gps for every single shrub of the same species so there might be an acceptable distance between shrubs that could be counted as one sampling. Do we need to get a gps for each plant or can we just say at xxx location between x-y gps?
A: We have struggled with this question and keep punting the answer down the road. The national USGS and FWS collection protocol specifies their sites as 1 ha in size, or 2.5 acres. So our suggestion is that if, for example, you are wandering around collecting on wax currents, and your swath is around 50 ft wide, you should start a new wax current collection event after you have walked around 200 ft. Make sense?
Q; How long in timespan can we call one event, how far apart can one event be if on the same type of plant?
A: We never talked about timespan. It will eventually become important as we transition from collection to surveying. For now, it would be great if you could keep a record of the time you spent sampling for a given day.
Q: How to use iNaturalist to record and make labels: Several people have tried this and have told me this is what we can use for these two activities but other than finding the OR Bee Atlas I can't figure how to do either.
A: We are happy with how iNaturalist is preforming. You can up load your paper records on the fly (i.e., using your phone) or at home using your PC. If you are not computer savey, deligate someone in your group to upload your records for you at home.
Q: Also, most of us are just trying to collect and if we stop to take photos we lessen our catch. Your thoughts?
A: Here is a work flow that Andony likes. He takes a picture of the first host plant of a given species he collect off of, then he uses the same sample ID for the same plant until he has traveled more that 200 ft from that plant (i.e., he doesn't take another picture, until he starts a new killing jar for another species of host plant). After he travels around 200 ft, he takes a new picture of that host plant to start a new collection record (see the question above about how far before you consider that you are collecting in a new site). Its all pretty fast.
Q: Netting and transferring bees to the killing jar. If you could please demonstrate. My own experience is that collecting a number of bees in the net makes it difficult to organize them in a small group to be dispatched even by snapping the net back and forth. Maybe its the low temps but just holding the net up doesn't mean the bees will climb up. Also fear of being stung.
A: We are behind on training videos and we will try and do this on the weekend. Its easier to get bees into a jar one at a time, but with a little practice you will be able to bag multiple bees in one net catch. Start simple. The alternate to inverting your jar outside the net waiting for the bee to crawl up, is to do all the transferring in the net (which is how Andony and Sarah do it - Sarah likes to use her belly to brace all the parts and Andony lets go of the handle after he sinches and slides his vial up into the net.
Q: Also the classnotes emphasize collecting as much and as efficiently as possible but for many of our team just having to curate 10 bees can be a tall order so I've told them not to collect more bees than they can curate. Or is it okay to collect in large numbers sending the ones we don't have time to curate to you? If so how do we send them? In alcohol or ? I have told them I won't curate their bees unless its something special. For example, one team member caught a Perdita sp. or some other very small bee and I agreed to mount it because he didn't think he could curate something that small.
A: A Perdita! How exciting! 10 bees should take less than 2 mins to pin up within a few sessions. Don't be super careful pinning these bees up. Here is a short video!
We know some groups are use to doing very fine pinning jobs - that is not what we want you to do (listen to the podcast we recorded with Dr. Chris Marshall and his comment that one of the common pitfalls are people who think curation is more than putting a pin straight through a bee).
Q: On that note, I have never glued any insect directly on to a pin nor have I used the glues that are recommended in the classnotes. A demo of this would be greatly appreciated.
A: Certainly. Here is a video on how to do this. You can also point if you prefer, but we are behind on our point production.
Q: There are many questions about who does what regarding labeling. Its always 'music to our ears' to hear someone else will make labels. But Sarah said that since our team has had more training that we are expected to make at least some of our own.
A: We will be making labels for everyone this year. We are still talking with Dr. Marshall about the best way to do this make sure all the data is easily accessioned into the Oregon collection.