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Volunteers add four new species to Minnesota Bee Atlas

It's National Volunteer Week, and we'd like to celebrate by sharing a great contribution to science by Extension volunteers.

The Minnesota Bee Atlas is a research project undertaken by Extension staff and University of Minnesota researchers to learn more about the diversity and distribution of native bees. From 2015 through 2020, volunteers documented native bees in Minnesota, including observing artificial nests to see when bees build nests and record the materials those bees used. Those nests were later returned to a lab on the St. Paul campus where the larvae inside were raised to adults and identified to the species level. 

After examining the specimens and comparing them to the existing information on bees in the state, four species were documented that have never before been recorded in Minnesota: Stelis permaculata, Osmia georgica, Megachile inimica, and Megachile frugalis

Now, this could mean a lot or very little as baseline data for native bees in Minnesota is still being established. Perhaps these bees have lived here all along and just never found their way into a collector’s net, or perhaps their ranges have shifted along with the USDA growing zones. Either way, this information helps us better understand what is going on with native bees in Minnesota and would not have been possible without the help of volunteers.

Funding for the Minnesota Bee Atlas was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).

Britt Forsberg, Extension program coordinator

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