Nearly 90% of flowering plant species, including 75% of agricultural crops, benefit from animal pollination. The United States alone grows more than 100 crops that either need or benefit from pollinators, and the economic value of these native pollinators is estimated at $3 billion per year.

Bees are intimately tied to flowers by their use of pollen as a protein source, making them the most important pollinator taxon in many regions. Ongoing threats to managed, non-native Western Honey Bees (Apis mellifera) have raised public awareness of the importance of bees to human wellbeing, and there is concern that some of the approximately 4,000 bee species in the United States may also be declining.

A Silky Striped Sweat Bee (Agapostemon sericeus) visiting a home pollinator garden. / © K.P. McFarland

Although we estimate there are about 250 species of bees in Vermont, there has never been a full survey of the State’s bees. Without even a checklist of species, it is very difficult to know whether populations of Vermont’s bees is healthy or declining. The Vermont Bee Survey represents the first step in assessing bee populations across Vermont.

The success of the Vermont Bee Survey (VTBees) depends on committed volunteers. With the help of volunteer citizen scientists, over the next 5 years (2019 – 2023), we’ll survey bees from the shorelines of Lake Champlain to Green Mountain Summits, boldly going where no melittologist has gone before! These new specimen records will be added to digitized historic records from museums throughout the region to build the first comprehensive survey of the bee fauna of Vermont.

In 2019, we’ll start our effort by concentrating on surveying Chittenden County. We’re hoping people like will join VTBees, learn how to conduct surveys, and adopt a survey block. After our first successful season, we’ll expand the survey to the rest of Vermont in 2020.

VTBees is a project of the Vermont Atlas of Life at the Vermont Center for Ecostudies and the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department with collaboration from University of Vermont Gund Institute for the Environment and Stone Environmental. Financial support has been provided by a State Wildlife Grant from the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department and generous contributions from Vermont Center for Ecostudies supporters.