Researchers conduct first survey of Minnesota bees

Farm Forum

FERGUS FALLS, Minn. (AP) — Scientists are traveling throughout western Minnesota to conduct a population survey of native bees this summer.

The state’s Department of Natural Resources is creating a catalog of Minnesota’s bee population for the first time with the support of a $370,000 state grant, Minnesota Public Radio News reported.

Counting bees allows scientists to study the relationships between population changes and pesticide use, disease and habitat disruption. In the past, scientists mainly focused on honeybees, but now they’re taking a look at more than 350 species of bees that call Minnesota home.

Crystal Boyd, an entomologist for the state Department of Natural Resources, is among the researchers conducting the native bee population survey.

“Our native bees are incredibly important pollinators,” Boyd said. “They’re supporting our prairie ecosystem, creating habitat and food for wildlife. They’re pollinating plants that prevent soil erosion, that buffer waterways, that store carbon. They were pollinating plants in Minnesota before honeybees even arrived.”

The grant from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund through state lottery proceeds will fund research for the next two years. Researchers plan to visit 90 sites every two weeks through October so they can capture bees that are active during different parts of the summer.

They use cups filled with soapy water to trap the bees for the count. The inside of the cups are coated with ultraviolet fluorescent paint to attract the bees. Boyd said yellows, blues and whites are the bees’ favorite colors.

The survey will also focus on the 18 bumblebee species in Minnesota. Researchers think at least three of the species are in trouble.