June 2022 Bulletin

5th Annual BeeBlitz, Milkweeds for monarchs, Bee photography tips, Bee Grooming

Annual BeeBlitz at Forest Park

Join us for our annual BeeBlitz during Pollinator Week at Forest Park! It will be Saturday June 25th at 10AM, but stayed tuned in case we have to change it due to weather. It is a great time to gather as a community and learn more about the bees in our region. We especially encourage new Shutterbee participants to attend, so we can point out the incredible diversity of the bees you may see your survey location. Last year, we even found a rare cuckoo bee, Holcopasites calliopsidis!

Cuckoo bee documented during the 2021 BeeBlitz by James1166

Mid-season Mowing Stunts Monarch Growth?

Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) lay their eggs primarily on milkweed plants in the genus Asclepias. Monarch populations are in decline, primarily from the loss of suitable host plants due to pesticide spraying and agricultural intensification.

A citizen science project out of Michigan State University looked at what happens when people chop down the milkweed mid-season. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, cutting back milkweed displaces predators and “cleans” the area by removing viruses and diseases. Milkweed has large root systems that easily regrow and the tender leaves are easier for small caterpillars to eat. However, this research comes from rural settings where large patches of milkweed (and all surrounding plants) are mowed. The citizen science project wanted to examine what happens when people cut down their milkweed in their home garden mid-season.

To participate, citizen scientists chopped back half of a patch and then compared the amount of monarch caterpillars found on each half. There were only 160 participants, but they found that there was a slightly negative impact of cutting down the milkweed. Given the sample size and the statistical power, the researchers concluded that they cannot advocate one way or another for cutting milkweed in a residential setting. This project was an excellent example of partnering with citizen scientists to test a finding in residential settings. You can learn more about their results here.

Experimental design to test whether mowing milkweeds hurts monarch growth.

Tips for Photography Foraging Bees!

Taking pictures of bees “on the wing” can be a challenge. They never seem to stay still! However, learning to anticipate how they might move while foraging on flowers can help up your bee photography game. Last year, James Faupel and Cheyenne Davis created a video detailing how bees move on common flower types. For instance, when you have long inflorescence, the bees tend to do littler circles around it as they move from flower to flower. If you have a flower in the Asteraceae, they may not stay long on each flower, but they are likely to move to the same type of flower nearby. Knowing these patterns can help you position yourself to catch the bee on its next move. Check out their video to learn more!

Bee Grooming Sticky Pollen

Bodhi Lee caught a great video of a green sweat bee (Augochlorini) wrangling primrose pollen. Pollen of plants in the Onagraceae family are strung together by viscin threads, making them sticky and hard to handle. This bee has skills, though, and is seen here grooming them onto her hind legs.

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