Annual backyard bumble bee count begins Friday

Iowans who are buzzing with enthusiasm for boosting the pollinator population ought to take part in the second annual Backyard Bumble Bee Count, starting Friday.

Jill Utrup, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, says even if you can only spare a few minutes and manage to spot a couple of bees, it will be worthwhile to log in and join the cause.  “The purpose of the Backyard Bumble Bee Count is really to enlist the help of folks who are interested to help document bumble bee occurrence and overall abundance,” Utrup says. “We’re looking at this as kind of an outreach tool for the endangered rusty-patched bumble bee but this project really helps us learn about all different species.”

You’ll need to get close enough to the bees to take a few pictures over the course of the nine-day count. It’s a valid concern to be cautious about getting stung, and Utrup assures, if you approach slowly and carefully, you should be fine. “Bumble bees are quite docile and what you’ll notice is, if you do get a little bit closer to them, you’ll notice they want nothing to do with us,” Utrup says. “They’re very different from wasps and hornets. When they are focused in on nectaring, they’re not paying attention to us at all.”

The dates of the count run from July 24th through August 2nd, during which you’re asked to count the number of bees and species you see, while documenting the time you’ve spent observing and where.  “These surveys can be just a few minutes, if you happen to find just a couple of bumble bees in your front yard, or they can be a more structured survey,” Utrup says. “If you happen to be in a park for a good half an hour or something like that, we actually have survey sheets you can print out to help you structure your survey a little bit more.”

Register for the count through the i-Naturalist website.

— Radio Iowa