The BeeSearch Blog

The BeeSearch Blog (31)

A collection of tales from the bee search.

Hello all!  It’s time (past time, really) for a quick update about the status of the Beesearch project.

Short version:

  • So far, we have found and collected cell samples from Western bumble bee workers at nine sites in Washington, Oregon, and California.  In addition, a project supporter has sent us a sample from a site in Montana.  (Thanks!)
  • We have delivered the first set of samples to the USDA facility in Logan, UT.
  • The rich site team has identified two promising locations on the Olympic Peninsula.
  • I’m back in the Seattle area for a few days, checking local sites and doing some maintenance on my truck.  I’ll be going back on the road next week.

Slightly longer version:

It’s been an interesting few weeks.  The primary theme has been drought: outside of the Puget Sound area, this has been a terrible year for bees.  

In western Washington, we can go to a site where Western bumble bees have been reported, and with a few hours’ work, we will usually find them.  Sometimes we can cover more than one site per day.  

South of Portland and east of the Cascades, the story has been very different.  At site after site, I have found that the ground is dry and the bloom is gone, sometimes more than a month early.  I have learned to look for water, to look uphill, and to spot differences in host plants from a long way off.  I’ve done a lot of climbing (helpful tip: if you live at sea level, don’t hike above 10,000’ with a chest cold) and talked to a lot of Forest Service rangers.  I’ve learned to find the bees, but it’s a much longer process: two or three days, rather than three or four hours.

Much longer version:

The much longer version will have to wait.  I have plenty of notes and quite a few stories to tell, but it turns out that route planning, sample collection, driving, and maintenance are rather more than a full time job.  We never did fill the vacancies on the road team, and our second volunteer got homesick after a few days, so I’m usually on my own.  It will probably be a few weeks before I get everything written out and online.

Thanks for the support!

Just a quick update to let you know we're not dead!  We're currently in Ashland, Oregon, and still trying to get the hang of setting aside enough time for email and updates.  There will be stories, once I figure out how to share them.  There's definintely a learning curve to this...

Still, this is a start:

The bee search is on!

Location: Portland, OR

Odometer: 199

The road trip is on!  Fittingly enough, it began with a rediscovery:  our specimen freezer, which had been lost in some virtual space between the West Marine warehouse and a nameless Fedex truck, suddenly reappeared.  After a few hours of wiring and packing, we left Seattle around midday today and headed south.

We expected a slow bee day (the weather wasn’t good), and so were not disappointed.  There were a few B. vosnesenskii, B. mixtus, and B. flavifrons on blackberry hedges, but we left them alone.

We’re staying overnight with friends, and heading out again in the morning.  The forecast is good.


Thanks again to everyone for their support, and especially to the Tamaki Foundation for their generous donation!

An article about the Beesearch project is on the FRONT PAGE of today's Seattle Times!

I absolutely did not see that coming.  Thanks, everyone, for all the support!

Rare bumblebee rebounding? Sightings create a hopeful buzz


I’m happy to announce that I’ll be participating in a Pollinator Week art show!

The show will be hosted by the Boulevard Grocery, at 2007 NE Ravenna Blvd in Seattle.  (I’m emphasizing the address because they didn’t put it on the flyer.  Ahem.)  The current lineup includes work by eight artists, including me, some beautiful Bugs on Rocks by Marike Reimer, and a number of works by members of the Natural Science Illustration program at UW.

Proceeds will benefit, the Urban Pollination Project, and the UW Beekeeping Club.  (Some of the perks from the Indiegogo campaign will be on display, including canvas prints and Marike's Western Bumblebee on a Rock.)

See you there!

Pollinator Week Art Show at the Boulevard Grocery

June 19th, 2014

2007 NE Ravenna Blvd, Seattle

I'm back!

I’m back!  

I’ve spent most of the past few weeks on the road.  Some of the time I was on my own, but I spent a few days at the Colockum Reserve with some students from the UW Entomology lab course, and a few more at a native bee seminar hosted by the Jepson Herbarium at the Hastings Reservation (which was amazing.)

I’ll fill in the missing Bees and Bugs of the Week over the next few days, and probably write a few things about the Colockum trips and the Jepson seminar, but in the meantime I have a lot of email to write…

Tiger Swallowtail

For the past few years, I’ve had the privilege to join the students in the UW entomology lab on their annual observation and collection trip to the Colockum Wildlife Reserve.  I like to think that I’ve been able to share some of my enthusiasm about pollination ecology, but (of course) I learn a great deal more than I teach.

The photographic opportunities are not half bad, either.  This week’s bug is Papilio rupulus, the Western Tiger Swallowtail, taken on my first visit to Colockum Ridge.

Amish wood milk

The biggest drawback of starting a new web site is that it's tripled the amount of spam I have to deal with every day.  On the plus side, some of it does provide cheap entertainment.

This morning, I got an email advertising "Amish wood milk".  I'm not even tempted to look at it.  No matter what it says, it can only get less weird, and what's the point of that?

Osmia, et al.

This week’s bee is an Osmia, that is, a mason bee.  

If you’ve heard of the Orchard Mason Bee, a reasonably manageable solitary bee that has started to show up at some of the better gardening stores around Puget Sound, this is one of its cousins.  It’s on Columbia Desert Parsley, about a mile from where I saw a robber fly eating a sweat bee.  (Yes, I did eventually find a few bees that day, just nothing to match the robber fly’s meal.)

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