We’re hoping people like you will join VTBees, learn how to conduct surveys, and adopt a survey block. Here's some FAQ about the survey.

Where does the survey take place?

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

How will wild bees be surveyed?

Two complementary methods will be implemented to survey wild bees: colored bowl traps with soapy water to capture of bees passively, and active captures using insect nets.

When are wild bees surveyed?

Surveying will begin in April and continue through September. The great thing about surveying bees is that it is only done in nice weather! If it is cold, cloudy or even raining, you can stay home and read about bees instead.

Do volunteers need to be experienced?

This survey requires no prior experience. You just have to learn the survey methods from us, how to handle specimens, and then help us get the field surveys done. Of course along the way you are likely going to learn a lot about wild bees and their natural history too. We do recommend that volunteers be at least 16 years old or be accompanied by an adult helper. Check out the volunteer manual for even more information too!

What does a volunteer need for a survey?

We provide most of the equipment you will need (see below), but you will need to get an insect net and use either a smartphone or a GPS unit to record the location of your surveys. Insect nets can be purchased from Bioquip (product number 7315NA). We provide: colored plastic bee bowls, data sheets, and small strainer.

What is a priority survey block?

To ensure thorough survey coverage across the landscape, we adopted a grid-based sampling scheme first used by the Atlas of Breeding Birds of Vermont and also by the Vermont Butterfly Survey and the Vermont Bumble Bee Atlas. This system uses the 184 U.S. Geological Survey 1:24,000, 7½-minute quadrangle topographic maps that cover Vermont. Quadrangles were divided into 6 blocks with each block covering about 25 square kilometers. Because it would be impossible to adequately survey all 1,177 blocks in Vermont, we randomly selected one priority survey block from each quadrangle for a total of 184 priority survey blocks scattered across the state. Priority blocks constitute the minimum set of blocks requiring full surveys. In 2019, we are only surveying blocks in Chittenden County. Here’s a map of the priority blocks in the county. There are more blocks to survey in the county if we have more volunteers. These are just the MINIMUM areas to be surveyed. After this first successful season, we’ll be expanding to the rest of Vermont in 2020 and beyond.

How much time does it take to survey bees?

Generally, it will take  a few hours per survey site each month and about 8 hours at a minimum per month on each block. Of course, we welcome volunteers to do more than just the minimum number of surveys on their adopted block(s)!

Will I get stung by any of these bees?

Some of the larger bees, like bumble bees and honey bees for example, do sting. But with proper handling while netting, it is very rare to get stung. If you are allergic to bee stings, you should not participate in this survey.

Why does the survey need to collect bees?

There are over 300 species of bees known for Vermont and many of these are impossible to identify to species without a specimen. Some species even mimic each other. Most species of bees cannot be identified in the field with binoculars or by photographs because identification characteristics are microscopic. Identifying bees on the wing is very difficult as bees are constantly moving and seldom provide sufficient opportunity to view and identify them. Variable skill levels of observers also make confidence in identification and comparisons between observers or surveys impossible.Taxonomic experts need specimens to make identifications possible.The mortality caused by inventory and long term monitoring programs has not been shown to impact subsequent year bee populations. Gezon et al. (2015) found that the standardized method for sampling bees, with specimens from 132 morphospecies, did not affect bee communities in terms of abundance, rarefied richness, evenness, or functional group composition. Their results indicate that the bee communities were robust to such sampling efforts, despite removing an average of 2,862 bees per season. Mortality from collecting bees is generally compensatory, where collection deaths replace deaths that would have occurred naturally, and does not impact the population size/viability of bees in subsequent years.

What about Western Honey Bees?

Also known as the European Honey Bee (Apis mellifera), they were introduced to North America for agricultural use in the early 1600s and are now found on every continent except for Antarctica. We cultivate Western Honey Bees for agricultural use just like chickens or milk cows. In some ways, their prominence among the tens of thousands of pollinator species speaks to our use of them as ‘monocultures.’ And it is this human use that is the subject of new environmental concern. This survey will encounter many honey bees as they are out foraging and are counted, but we are focused on wild bees. Most Western Honey Bees are from managed hives or some feral hives. Managed bees (both honey and bumble bees) may transmit new diseases to wild bees, or they may allow existing diseases to multiply and “spill back” into wild populations. This is an area of active research.