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Bee-lieve in Yourself

Fun fact: the Echinacea Project has collected over 1000 bee specimen and each is more beautiful than the next, especially when viewed from under a high-powered microscope. My task over the three weeks of my externship is to inventory and organize these lovely little pollinators and then create a database on the Echinacea webpage that project members can refer to in the field when they observe a pollinator visiting a purple coneflower.

So far, no easy task! Most of the bees have been previously identified, but some remain nameless and nomadic, species-less and in need of a home. Thus, a crash-course in bee identification was necessary. I think I’ve gotten pretty good at, if not identifying native bee species, then plowing headfirst into identifying native bee species and confidently writing down the complete wrong answer. Notable characteristics that are friends when identifying native bees include the colors of the mandibles (not the “jaw”, Belle) and the color of the little fuzzy hairs on the top of his or her head. More difficult characteristics whose identification I have yet to master include the specific color of the hair in between the T3 and T2 apical bands, above the rim but sometimes moving towards the center, and not characteristically white. Honestly, it’s Greek to me at this point and when this is all done I have a bone to pick with whoever wrote out these characteristics on DiscoverLife, but I hope to learn the language over these next three weeks. The fun part is that each bee is special in its own persnickety little way, which allows for little battles with these little beasts all day long as I try to reason with them. Currently, I am not winning.

In the next few weeks I hope to wrangle these bees into their place and get them neatly organized and classified. Hopefully I will post some close-up views of these hard-working ladies and gents from under the microscope soon, but it seems the lights  have had enough today and need a bit of a break before turning on again. But I bee-lieve in them.

 

Jurassic Bee (or a "bee killer")

Jurassic Bee (or a “bee killer”)

 

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