How many bumble bees can you count?

Melissa Gabrielson, Wildlife Biologist, Chippewa National Forest, Deer River Ranger District

Bee siting on the side of a flower.It has been an exceptionally dry summer in Minnesota. With the warmer temperatures and lack of rain, you may have noticed a response (or lack thereof) in many of the native plants. Drought triggers a variety of plant responses. Some, like plant growth, can be seen (shorter height, less leaves and flowers). Others, like the amount of food produced (pollen, nectar, or protein), may not be as obvious. Researchers have found that during drought years plants produce fewer, shorter-lasting flowers. Less flowers means less food for bees and other pollinators. The lack of adequate, high-quality food can be detrimental to bee health and lead to population declines.

The more we can learn about plant and bumble bee responses to drought and other weather patterns, the better. One way that you can help is by participating in citizen science events like the upcoming Backyard Bumble Bee Count.  Each sighting submitted during the Backyard Bumble Bee Count will help researchers learn more about bumble bees and how to protect them and the habitat they use.

The 3rd Annual Backyard Bumble Bee Count will occur July 23 – August 1, 2021. The Backyard Bumble Bee Count is an iNatualist citizen science project that documents bumble bee occurrence and relative abundance in the eastern United States. Anyone can take part in the Backyard Bumble Bee Count, from beginners to experts, and you can participate from your backyard, a park, nature center, or anywhere in the eastern United States.

Interested in joining? If you have an iNaturalist account, learn how to join.  If you don't have an account, joining is easy!  Check out this video to get started! ​

Starting July 23 you can follow the Backyard Bumble Bee project and see where bees are being observed in realtime! Watch throughout the week as the total observations, species count, and number of people (observers) increases on the Backyard Bumble Bee Count project page.

More information about the Backyard Bumble bee count, count instructions, bumble bee identification, iNaturalist portal, information on citizen science, and more can be found here.

The bees are out there you just have to look! How many will you count?

The 3rd annual Backyard Bumble Bee Count will be held Friday, July 23, through Sunday, August 1, 2021.