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Big Event: shooing bees AWAY from flowers

The team hard at work shooing pollinators

Yup you read right, today we shooed the bees from the Echinacea. Now you may be asking why would a group of scientists trying to save native bee populations tried to stop bees from pollinating flowers. Well, it’s a reasonable question. Since plants can’t move, it is difficult for them to find a mate, therefore, they have evolved to use bees to do the moving part for them. The different types of bees can have differing effects on the plant’s fitness (not how big its muscles are but how many offspring it has) and those effects are exactly what we are trying to determine with this experiment. Many plants have both male and female parts. Female being how many seeds are being made and male being how many seeds a plant helps make. This raises the question of: how good are different types of bees at distributing pollen from a plant? In order to do this, we need to have plants that are only pollinated by one type of bee. Once we have plants only pollinated by one type of bee we can track where this pollen goes using genetic work. This is where the shooing comes in, to have plants only pollinated by one type of bee we needed to shoo away the other types.

So today the entire team (except Kristen – she was busy working with bees 🙁 ) went out to P2 and worked on the male fitness project. This shooing event has been dubbed the “Big Event.” Today was the first Big Event of five(?) to come, and it was quite successful. We observed around 200 pollinators, the majority of the bees that we saw fit into the category of “small black bee” not to be confused with “medium black bees”, we also saw a fair number of Andrena which are impressive due to the great amount of pollen that each bee carries.

John holding a male Megachile

We saw some Augochlorellas, and Agapostomons – both of which are neat because they are green! My favorite of the day was a male Megachile which I have never seen before. They are very distinct with hairs on their front legs. This mere two and half hours of observations show you the high level of diversity of different bee species at one of our study sites! Can’t wait for the next Big Event titled Big Event 2: Electric Boogaloo and all of the bees that will be found then!

Gretel and Stuart examining a bee

A female Megachile on a echinacea(notice how she caries pollen on her abdomen)

See ya’ next time flog!

Mia

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