Spring Collecting and Identifying Bumble Bees
Lesson Plan Number 3
Overview: Many factors influence the distribution and abundance of living organisms. They include the following: the availability of resources such as food, shelter and water, the presence of predators, diseases and parasites, and the climate. In scientific studies of populations, it is impossible for a scientist to collect all of the organisms of interest; therefore, scientists collect samples of populations. To reduce the risk of drawing conclusions from an atypical sample, they collect several samples and average their results. Scientists also collect samples from across the region of interest to be sure that their sample represents the true population.
Project: Students will collect bumble bees in the field, record data, identify and release specimens, answer conclusion questions, and send data in to researcher leaders.
Vocabulary: sample, distribution, population
- To increase students' understanding of how scientists collect data.
- To improve students' ability to work in research teams.
- To increase students' ability to recognize bumble bee species.
- To increase students' ability to recognize floral species.
- To guide students in beginning to associate bumble bee species with habitats.
- To collect and record information about the distribution and abundance of bumble bee species.
- To gain a better understanding of the floral resources used by each species.
- To write a research publication on the distribution and abundance of Nebraska bumble bee species and their preferred forage plants.
Materials Needed: Jars with lids, aerial collecting net, cooler with ice block, 10X hand-lens, larval forceps, pen, field data book, andBumble Boosters: A Guide to Identifying Nebraska Bumble Bee Species.
Introduction: The distribution and abundance of Nebraska bumble bee species is not known. Twenty different species have been reported in the state, but several species have not been collected since the early 1900's. Bumble bees are valuable pollinating insects. By collecting and recording data from around the state, the current distribution and abundance of bumble bees and their preferred forage plants will be established. Information gathered on preferred forage plants will guide land managers and homeowners who seek to conserve bumble bees by providing preferred forage plants.
- Introduce students to background information prior to collecting bumble bees. The Bumble Boosters Web-site, instructional video, and books in the resource kit will be helpful. Information about the importance of pollinators and their impact on our environment can also be found in the instructional video and in the readings included in the resource kit. Students should begin by learning to distinguish bumble bees from other insects. The Bumble Boosters: Guide to Identifying Nebraska Bumble Bee Species provides information on how to identify bumble bee species. Introduce students to pinned specimens before they begin to collect. Students curious about the known distribution and abundance of species in their area can find information on the Bumble Boosters Web site (http://bumbleboosters.unl.edu).
- State the importance of accurately recording scientific data. Data needs to be stored in a well-organized manner for easy retrieval. Determine how data will be collected and recorded before going to the field.
- Demonstrate collecting methods, or show the portion of the Bumble Boosters videotape that demonstrates collecting techniques
4. Form teams of students for collecting bumble bees. There are three roles for students - collectors, equipment carriers, and recorders. One recorder and equipment carrier can support several collectors.
- Travel to a collection site. Select an area with nesting habitat and floral resources. In early spring search for bumble bees on flowering fruit trees, dandelions, gooseberries, columbines, delphiniums, and crocus.
- Collect specimens by capturing them in a jar or by collecting them in a net and transferring them to a jar. Jars with wide mouths and screw on lids are preferred.
- Record information about the collection site. Include information about the state, county, and location (quarter section, section, township and range coordinates are best, but text descriptions such as "3 miles south of Ord" are acceptable). Plat maps can be obtained from the Nebraska Department of Roads, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, or the County Engineer's office. Also include the date (19 May 2000), collector's name, and floral resource where the bee was collected (if collected on a flower).
- Chill specimens in a cooler with an ice-block. After 20 minutes, specimens should be cool enough to examine. Chilled specimens will be very sluggish if they move at all, and they can sting if touched. If you can't identify a specimen immediately after capture, you may place it in a refrigerator for up to two days without causing harm to the bee.
- Remove specimens from the jar, and place them on a flat surface for identification. You can manipulate the specimen by using a pair of forceps.
- Follow procedures for identifying specimens found in Bumble Boosters: A Guide the Identification of Nebraska Bumble Bee Species. In most cases a hand-held lens will suffice for identifying live specimens.
- Record species and gender information.
- Release specimen near where it was captured (preferably within 50 yards or less).
Conclusion: After several collecting trips, consider recording information on a classroom billboard or poster. Data points indicating where bumble bees have been collected can be recorded on a town or county map. Mapping collections will allow students to discuss bumble bee distribution and speculate about where they would expect to collect each species. Students can analyze their findings by preparing a graph showing the percentage of all bees collected for each species. They can make similar graphs for each collection trip to observe changes in species abundance throughout the year.
- According to the information gathered from the collections, which species emerge first in the spring?
- What is the most abundant species collected in your area? Does the sampling technique clearly indicate the most abundant species in your area?
- Was the relative abundance of species the same at all sampling sites? If not, why?
- Is there a relationship between the type and abundance of floral resources and the number of bees collected in an area? What is this relationship and what does it really tell us?
- Does the time of day or the temperature affect the number of bumble bees collected? If so, describe the optimum time of day and temperature for finding foraging bumble bees.
- What combination of factors makes a "hot spot" for collecting bumble bees?
- Is there a more accurate sampling method for determining the distribution and abundance of bumble bee species?
Bumble Boosters Web site (2000) http//:bumbleboosters.unl.edu
Golick, D. A., Ellis, M. D. (2000) Bumble Boosters: A Guide to the Identification of Nebraska Bumble Bee Species. University of Nebraska Press. EC 00-1564-S