The Bees’ Needs was very excited to receive funding from the Boulder County Parks and Open Space (BCPOS) this Spring to document nesting bee and wasp diversity and abundance in six natural habitat types on BCPOS properties. This research will establish important baseline monitoring information for BCPOS and will allow us to compare how open space bee and wasp populations compare to those monitored by our volunteers in developed and landscaped parts of the Northern Front Range. As part of this grant, we have 40 hole bee blocks in the field at Mud Lake, Bald Mountain, Heil Valley Ranch, Rabbit Mountain, Coalton Trailhead, and Flagg Park. These properties range in elevation from roughly 8400 ft. to 5200 ft. and represent different types of forest, grassland, and riparian communities. Our superstar undergraduate research assistant, Brian Lobbes, is spending his summer monitoring these blocks and using his talents in photography to carefully document the nest plugs that appear throughout the season. We are excited to use his photographs to improve our identification guides for our volunteers and to eventually make a unique, on-line guide to the bee and wasp nests of the Northern Front Range. Click on any of the images below to see larger versions of them.
In the meantime, he’s been busy checking all the blocks (1920 tunnels) every two weeks for signs of nesting activity. These bee blocks differ slightly from the ones our volunteers use, in that all of these blocks will be brought back to the museum at the end of the summer. We plan to rear out the baby bees, wasps, and their parasites that are developing in these blocks, and we will collect them for our museum. In this way, we will be able to make definitive connections between which bees make which types of nest plugs at what time of year, so that we can continue to grow our capacity to assign species identifications to the nest plugs reported by citizen scientists. These specimens will also provide a permanent snapshot of the diversity of bee and wasp species present on these properties in 2015—a valuable asset for future scientists who may wish to study changes in these communities and BCPOS. In addition to our work on County open space properties, we are also continuing our collaboration with City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks—we have blocks at 40 of their trailheads, which are monitored by their volunteers. This work is giving us a great snapshot of diversity on these properties and our conspicuous bee blocks and their educational signage is helping us spread the word about native bees to a big part of our community.