October 2022 Bulletin

Data Entry Wrap Up!

Although the data collection season is over for Shutterbee, data submission can still be done! If you did a survey earlier in the year and you have not yet submitted the photos to iNaturalist, please do so when you have a chance. Ideally, we would like all data for the year to be submitted by the end of October, so we have to identify the bees and plants and use them in our next set of analyses.

Shutterbee Symposium November 12th

We will be having our Shutterbee Symposium at Webster University November 12th! If you are interested in attending, please fill out this form. If you come you’ll get to schmooze with other participants, be the first to get your Shutterbee yard sign, and get to hear some awesome presentations from undergrads and your fellow participants. We hope to see you there!

Green Roofs to Stave Off the Heat

From rooftops to bus stops, heat-absorbing surfaces dot urban landscapes. The intense solar radiation the sun emits is reflected back and warms the air and land. This phenomenon is known as the Urban Heat Island Effect because it creates an isolated pocket of heat within cities. Within St. Louis, the City Emergency Management Agency found temperatures reach 10 degrees hotter than the surrounding county in the summer. One solution to mitigate these intense temperatures in urban spaces relies on green roofs.

Green roofs, also known as living roofs, provide a miniature garden on a roof instead of using the traditional building materials. The GSA’s in-depth literature review of 200 studies found green roofs offer a variety of benefits for both pollinators and people. A green roof, like the name implies, helps add more green space in urban areas and reduces the urban heat island effect. This protective layer of soil and plants can filter stormwater, reduce a building’s energy needs, and create habitat all while looking beautiful.

Grant Park Village Apartments intensive green roof – Portland, OR | EPA.gov

The EPA’s case study of Kansas City, MO found that the over 700,000 square ft of green roofs would help avoid more than 1,300 tons of emissions in 2020. You can even visit the Kansas City Public Library for a self-guided tour of Missouri history surrounded by their beautiful green roof garden!

Utilizing the concept of green roofs, cities in the UK and across Europe began implementing “Bee Bus Stops” which are bus shelters with green roofs. Clear Channel UK, the media and infrastructure company replacing the bus shelters, means to create at least 1,000 bee bus stops across the UK. When old bus shelters are removed, Clear Channel works to keep them out of landfills by recycling or repurposing them.

Living roof in Leicester, England | Clear Channel UK

Other European countries, like the Netherlands, have also begun adding bee bus stops. A national Dutch bee census, collected by thousands of citizen scientists and volunteers, found the urban bee population has been steady for the last few years. This is great news compared to the several decades of decline they have observed before the 2018 national pollinator strategy was implemented to increase pollinator habitat. These strategies include the over 300 bee stops the city of Utrecht has installed and bee hotels placed around Amsterdam.

Efforts like bee bus stops and pollinator hotels help create more spaces in urban environments for pollinators. As more initiatives across the world work to reduce wasted space in urban areas, like the tops of bus shelters or roofs, we can work to create a safer, better environment for people and pollinators. Not everyone may be able to afford a green roof when renovating their house but individual action creates a ripple. Making choices like reducing your lawn to plant more natives or encouraging cities to invest more into these eco-friendly choices has a huge effect and help to make tomorrow greener.

Companion Plants for Your Food Plants

Many crop plants rely on local insects for pollination. While honeybees can be important pollinators in agricultural settings, wild bees are often better pollinators. That is good news in some ways, because it means you don’t need a honeybee hive to increase pollination. Indeed, there are a few simple ways you can help your local pollinators and increase pollination of your crop plants! Here, we provide a few recommendations of native plants that will attract and support native pollinators to your crop plants. More recommendations can be found on this GrowNative! handout

Tomatoes, peppers, eggplants: These plants are buzz pollinated, meaning the pollinator has to shake the anthers just right in order for the pollen to fall out. Honeybees can’t buzz pollinate, so attracting native pollinators such as bumble bees, blueberry bees, and metallic green bees can help improve pollination. 

Recommended companion plants: foxglove beardtongue, pale purple coneflower, wild bergamot, wild blue indigo

Native plants pollinated by the same pollinators as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant.

Strawberries, blackberries, raspberry: These flowers are open, with their nectar and pollen exposed, and are pollinated by many different native pollinators, including metallic green bees, sweat bees, mining bees, small carpenter bees, and mason bees. 

Recommended companion plants: New Jersey tea, pale beard-tongue, wild hyacinth, ragworts

Companion plants to increase pollination to strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries.

Squashes, cucumbers, zucchini, melons: These plants are all in the gourd plant family, which are pollinated by a specialist species (known as the squash bee) that feeds its young pollen from these plants alone. They are also pollinated by bumble bees, long-horned bees, and some sweat bees. 

Recommended companion plants: leadplant, purple prairie clover, tall coreopsis, milkweed, sunflowers

Recommended plants to support pollinators of squashes, cucumbers, and melons.

Bumblebees at home and around the world

There are about 250 species of bumblebees (genus Bombus) in the world. The majority of the Bombus diversity is found in Europe and in Asia–there are no Bombus in Australia or most of the continent of Africa. There are about 46 species of Bombus in North America, but in St. Louis region we only see 6 species regularly with a few others rarely. St. Louis is too far away from the mountains to get the species seen in Colorado such as the high country bumble bee (B. kirbiellus) and the forest bumble bee (B. sylvicola). We are too removed from large swaths of remnant prairie to get species such as the rusty-patched bumble bee (B. affinis). And it is too warm to get cold-adapted species such as the half-black bumble bee (B. vagans). Diversity of Bombus is also lower in the southern states so there are few species for which St. Louis can be the northernmost for (with the exception of the southern plains bumble bee, B. fraternus).

However, our relative lack of Bombus is no need to fret! We have plenty of other amazing bees in our region to see. Additionally, because as many of you know, Bombus are big and (relatively) easy to identify via photographs, it means that every time you travel outside the metro area, you have a chance to see a new species! Nina traveled to Montreal, Canada in August to present at the Ecological Society of America conference. While she was there, she spotted 5 species. She saw the common eastern bumble bee (B. impatiens) and the two-spotted bumble bee (B. bimaculatus), both of which we have in the area. New to her were the red-belted bumble bee (B. rufocintus), the lemon cuckoo bee (B. citrinus), and the half-black bumble bee (B. vagans)!

The bees are winding down in our area for the year, but if you are traveling south during the winter or if you have any photos from past or future excursions, we’d love to see them! Just shoot us an email at shutterbee@webster.edu.

Bombus citrinis and Bombus rufocintus

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