Blue Ridge Bumble Bee Megatransect

In July 2015 volunteers helped study some of the most familiar and important pollinators in the eastern United States. Download the following spreadsheet containing identification of bumble bees collected by participants of the megatransect. xlsxMegatransectdata.xlsx

Data Map Discuss

Bumble Bees are some of the most important pollinators of wildflowers, like azaleas and mints, and agricultural products, like blueberries and tomatoes. Many native species have experienced a sudden and drastic decline in population, now absent from most of their previous range. The some of the remotest parts of the eastern US are crossed by the roads through Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park. If some of these declining bee species are holding on anywhere, this would be the place. With the help of volunteers, the Bumble Bee Megatransect will explore the distribution of over a dozen different bumble bee species and identify any refuges where rare species may still be surviving.

Appalachian State University graduate student Eric Rayfield and his professor, Dr. Jennifer Geib, are also looking at the genetic diversity of bumble bees. Bumble Bees form social colonies in which there is one breeding queen and many non-breeding workers. The goal of this colony is to produce as many breeding individuals as possible, in the form of new queens and males in the fall. The new queens will then fly to a new area, or disperse, away from their home colony to mate, find a place to hibernate for the winter and begin her own new colony in the spring. When this queen disperses, she is moving genes from her home colony to a new population of other colonies and increasing genetic diversity which can be beneficial to a population. With increased genetic diversity, a population of bees would be better equipped to handle environmental stresses such as drought or disease. However, if a population of bees is not receiving many new queens from outside populations, they will suffer from inbreeding and lower genetic diversity which can cause the population to dwindle. Determining how queens disperse and bring new genes into an area is a great concern to bee conservationists.

During the Bumble Bee Megatransect, they will be examining how landscape features such as elevation, wind, or sunlight affect the movement of genes between bumblebee populations. They will do this by analyzing the genes of the bumble bees caught by volunteers and comparing populations to each other to see how similar or different they are. By comparing the connections between populations across the landscape, we can learn what habitats may facilitate gene flow and which provide barriers. If we know what barriers are preventing bumble bee populations from exchanging genes, we could possibly implement practices to connect these populations and help maintain population connectivity which will help lessen the decline of bumble bees.

In the News:

NPR Story:

Netting Bumble BeesSurvey Protocol for Blue Ridge Bumble Bees Megatransect

Updated on June 12, 2015

pdfPermits and Datasheets (login required)
be/zvynxew0fkkTraining Video

Quick Summary: On nice days in July stop every 2 miles along Roadway and collect Bumble bees for 10 minutes.

Necessary Equipment: Net | Clipboard | Data Sheet | Collecting Tube or Jar | Watch or Stopwatch or CHARGED Cell Phone with Countdown Timer APP | Permit | Dashboard Sign | 3 Pencils | Whirlpaks or centrifuge tubes | Spoon | Gloves | Labels (write in pencil only) | container with soapy water (dish detergent) and lid (to keep from spilling in the car)

Survey Time Window: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Survey Date Window: All of July, ideally sunny weather with minimal wind

Inappropriate Weather: Extreme Wind | Rain

Where to Stop: Stops are at ODD numbered mile markers. Primarily use your car odometer to locate stopping points as sometimes the actual mile markers are difficult to locate and in some places they may not be there. Use the mile markers to recalibrate your odometer as you pass them. After you hit your mileage point look for the next nearest location you can safely pull out on either side of the road.

Time for an Individual Count: 10 minutes | Count starts WHEN YOU LEAVE THE CAR and have your net ready

Collecting: Walk DO NOT RUN to the nearest location having Bumble Bees or looks like it could have Bumble Bees | Stop collecting after 10 minutes even if you see more Bumble Bees

Net Handling: Move net to about 2 feet from bee before swinging QUICKLY| Do not worry about damaging flowers with you swing| Center your swing on the Bumble Bee | After capture, snap bees down to end of net and grab net ABOVE bees with gloved hand | Do not remove Bumble Bees during 10 minute Count Period

Removing Specimens: Put net end with bees into container with dish soap and put lid on so it won’t spill, drive to the next stop or wait 5 minutes for the bees to become sluggish, then transfer to whirlpak or centrifuge tube with alcohol and label into whirlpak (can use a spoon to help).

Record on Form: Time | Stop Number | Abundance of Flowers | Presence / Absence of Bumblebees | GPS your location if you have GPS otherwise describe the stop location| Note any issues | picture number if you have a camera (optional, take one picture of the area where you collected the bees).

Training Video


Photos of bumble bees are used with permission from Sam Droege's USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab Flickr gallery and from Eric Rayfield and Kevin Burnette of Appalachian State University.

HOL Gallery


Poetry and Quotes

Bees are black, with Gilt Surcingles
Buccaneers of Buzz.
Ride abroad in ostentation
And subsist on fuzz.
Fuzz ordained - not fuzz contingent -
Marrows of the hill.
Jugs - a Universe's fracture
Could not jar or spill.
      - Emily Dickinson

The Humblebee
Burly dozing humblebee!
Where thou art is clime for me.
Let them sail for Porto Rique,
Far-off heats through seas to seek,
I will follow thee alone,
Thou animated torrid zone!
Zig-zag steerer, desert-cheerer,
Let me chase thy waving lines,
Keep me nearer, me thy hearer,
Singing over shrubs and vines.

Insect lover of the sun,

Joy of thy dominion!
Sailor of the atmosphere,
Swimmer through the waves of air,
Voyager of light and noon,
Epicurean of June,
Wait I prithee, till I come
Within ear-shot of thy hum,—
All without is martyrdom.

When the south wind, in May days,

With a net of shining haze,
Silvers the horizon wall,
And, with softness touching all,
Tints the human countenance
With a color of romance,
And, infusing subtle heats,
Turns the sod to violets,
Thou in sunny solitudes,
Rover of the underwoods,
The green silence dost displace,
With thy mellow breezy bass.

Hot midsummer's petted crone,

Sweet to me thy drowsy tune,
Telling of countless sunny hours,
Long days, and solid banks of flowers,
Of gulfs of sweetness without bound
In Indian wildernesses found,
Of Syrian peace, immortal leisure,
Firmest cheer and bird-like pleasure.

Aught unsavory or unclean,

Hath my insect never seen,
But violets and bilberry bells,
Maple sap and daffodels,
Grass with green flag half-mast high,
Succory to match the sky,
Columbine with horn of honey,
Scented fern, and agrimony,
Clover, catch fly, adders-tongue,
And brier-roses dwelt among;
All beside was unknown waste,
All was picture as he passed.

Wiser far than human seer,

Yellow-breeched philosopher!
Seeing only what is fair,
Sipping only what is sweet,
Thou dost mock at fate and care,
Leave the chaff and take the wheat,
When the fierce north-western blast
Cools sea and land so far and fast,
Thou already slumberest deep,—
Woe and want thou canst out-sleep,—
Want and woe which torture us,
Thy sleep makes ridiculous. 
     - Emerson

Nature" is what we see -
The Hill - the Afternoon -
Squirrel - Eclipse - the Bumble bee -
Nay - Nature is Heaven -
Nature is what we hear -
The Bobolink - the Sea -
Thunder - the Cricket -
Nay - Nature is Harmony -
Nature is what we know -
Yet have no art to say -
So impotent Our Wisdom is
To her Simplicity.
      - Dickinson

Old maids are the support of the British Empire: Old maids keep cats: cats catch field mice that otherwise would destroy humblebee nests; humblebees enable red clover to set seed; red clover is good food for cattle; and roast beef gives strength to men who are the support of the British Empire.
      - Extracted from the 1948 edition of  Lutz’s Fieldbook of Insects of the United States and Canada

Bumblebee Roadside Surveys: A Pilot Survey and Recommendations by Sam Droege