September 2022 Bulletin

2022 survey end date, Shutterbee Symposium, Virtual bee ID classes, Cheyenne’s BSA results summary, Bees of the world, and Fall blooms for bees


Are you going to will miss your backyard bees while they “rest” this winter? We will, too, but we have some exciting events to help us all stay connected.

Photosurvey end date: September 30th

The official end date for photo surveys this year is September 30th. Bee foraging season is beginning to wind down. While some species will still forage later in the year, the bulk of bee diversity will have declined by then. We will be focusing on finalizing bee and plant identification and preparing the 2022 data for analyses.

September 30th is the last day to take a survey, but not upload! If you have surveys you took but never posted to iNaturalist, please try and submit them by October 15th.

Shutterbee Symposium at Webster University

This year, we are having our first Shutterbee Symposium on Saturday, November 12th. We are inviting you to attend…and contribute if you’d like!  

Along with some talks by our fabulous undergraduate students, we invite you to give a short talk. The topic can be anything of your choosing as long as it’s somewhat related to cities, plants, gardens, wildlife, photography or another relevant topic. Your talk can be a “research report” based on the published literature, something you’ve observed, the plant that attract the most uncommon bees in your yard, or anything in between. So far we have talks scheduled about removing honeysuckle, coexisting with rabbits, hibiscus bees, and goldfinches!

The symposium is free, but we need to know who (and how many “whos”) plan to attend. Please fill out this registration form by November 1st to let us know that you are coming.

If you are interested in giving a talk, please fill out this form by October 15th.  We may have to limit the number of talks, so sign up early if you are interested. First come, first serve! As we get closer, we will send out more details and host a few virtual “office hour” sessions where you can pop in and ask questions if you have them. And as always, please don’t hesitate to email with any questions.  

Virtual bee ID classes

We are running our virtual bee ID classes again this year. We invite anyone interested in learning to tell the bees your garden apart to join the sessions. Whether you are completely new to the game or have some practice under your belt, we would love to have you there! Please fill out this registration form to let us know if you plan to come.

Schedule for the Fall-Winter 2022 Virtual Bee ID Courses

RESULTS! by Cheyenne Davis

Using the data collected by Shutterbee Participants (including many of you!) to study how urbanization effects bee diversity. Backyard conservation relies on everyday people making choices that benefit the local environment. Planting natives or flowers with staggered blooming periods, for example, help provide a greater number of resources for pollinators. Our individual choices on the green space in urban areas will continue to affect pollinators as more land is developed by humans for humans.

Previous studies in the United Kingdom (Udy et al. 2020) showed that increasing urbanization of an area tended to reduce pollinator richness, meaning cities were supporting fewer bee taxa than rural or suburban areas. When you think of urban cities compared to wide sprawling country sides or even the quilt-like patches of suburbia, there is significantly less green space. Fewer plants and nesting locations translates to fewer bees—especially specialists. But community gardens, planter boxes, a flowerpot on the stoop, the collection of green spaces rather than a singular green space could still provide enough resources for pollinators. 

We wanted to see if there was a universal trend with urbanization or if perhaps local factors could have a greater effect on bees. How much did those individual gardens working together affect bee diversity on the scale of the St. Louis Metropolitan Area? These data collected by Shutterbee participants allowed us to explore this question and will allow us to answer many more.

Using the 2020 and 2021 data, we found a negative correlation between urbanization and lot size. This means that as urbanization increased, the plots of land used for surveys trended towards smaller lots. Returning to the idea of a tightly packed city versus a large farm, this makes sense. Parcel size did not correlate with bee richness or plant-pollinator interaction. We did find an increase in bee richness and plant-bee interaction richness with urbanization. As urbanization increased, so did our bee diversity! As bee diversity increased, so did the number of interaction types – meaning there were more unique bee-plant interactions in cities than outside the city. This is contrary to some previous research but highlights the importance of local factors on diversity.

We have a lot more to uncover about your garden bees and the plants they visit. Amber Estes-Brooks and Colby Kapp are planning their senior theses as we speak. Amber is interested in whether urbanization affects sex ratios, so she will going back through observations of a subset of species to sex the bees. Colby is interested in turnover, meaning how much species vary from garden to garden and from year to year. His study is particularly reliant on folks who have participated for more than one year, so we give a special shout-out to our returners!

It is by no small feat that we accrued over 30,000 observations in just a few years providing us invaluable information to uncover these answers. We mean it when we say we could not have done it without your help. Thank you to our participants for all the help you have provided!

The number of bee general and unique bee-plant interactions
increased with urbanization in St. Louis.

Bees Around the World

Alaska wasn’t all work for our research scientists! Nicole spent some extra time gallivanting around the Kenai Peninsula south of Anchorage with her husband. In addition to the incredible scenery, the bumble bees were busy collecting pollen and nectar in preparation for fall. Solitary bees do occur in cold environments, but bumble bees are the most abundant pollinator. They have a special adaptation that allows them to fly when it is cool – they can shiver! They “unhook” their wings from their flight muscles and vibrate their muscles, which creates heat. That is rare among bees, which gives them an edge in these tough environments.

A frigid bumble bee (B. frigidus) visiting fireweed in Seward, Alaska
A black-tailed bumble bee (B. melanopygus) foraging on a fireweed in Seward, Alaska
A western bumble bee (B. occidentalis) visiting an Apiaceae

Jan Rifkin took a trip to Inverness, Scotland and got these great shorts of a buff-tailed bumble bee (B. terrestris) on ‘Blue Globe’ (Echinops bannaticus)! There are couple bees that look similar in this region, but only the buff-tailed (to our knowledge) have yellow hairs on the tips of their abdomens.

Fall Blooms for Bees

As we approach fall, bees are provisioning their last few nests before the end of the season. Fall is also a great time to put in new plants so they can get established before temperatures drop too much.

Here are four flowers we think are great for attracting fall bees:

New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) These purple flowers attract bees big and small as well as beetles and butterflies. You can also prune this plant to resemble horticultural mum “gumballs” while actually providing resources to bees.

Cliff goldenrod (Solidago drummondii) Much less aggressive than Solidago canadensis, cliff goldenrod lays somewhat flat and attracts lots of insects including the stunning bee Andrena nubecula.

Turtlehead (Chelone obliqua) A great pollen resource for bumblebee species, which are the primary pollinators of the plant. This plant likes wet, somewhat shaded areas.

Sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale) Despite the name, this plant does not cause allergies (although apparently it was dried and used medicinally by indigenous groups). These yellow flowers attract many Halictids and other smaller bees.

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