Midsummer update: road team of one

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!

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