Frequently Asked Questions
Mission statement: The Oregon Bee Atlas trains and equips citizen scientists to: a) create and maintain a comprehensive and publicly accessible inventory of the state’s native bees and their plant-host preferences, b) to educate Oregonians on the state’s bee biodiversity and c) to conduct an on-going survey of native bee populations in order to assess their health.
Q: Why do we need an Oregon Bee Atlas?
A: Land management practices are known to impact bee populations. Despite this, native bee communities are poorly surveyed, making it impossible to resolve whether changing land management practices are leading to overall pollinator community declines or recoveries outside of regions with historic sampling efforts. The Pacific Northwest (PNW) region presents further, unique challenges for detecting changes in native bee populations. These challenges stem from the fact that the PNW contains 12 distinct ecoregions that are dissected by two broad mountain ranges, resulting in distinct pollinator communities. In light of these challenges, it is perhaps not surprising that the PNW lags behind other parts of the US in terms of sampling efforts, with only a handful of restricted studies having taken place there since the 1980s. In contrast to the Eastern US, the PNW region lacks basic identification resources and expertise, with no regional species list. In many cases, common bee taxa lack taxonomic keys and other diagnostic tools. The Oregon Bee Atlas is our way of not only catching up, but blazing a trail, by developing a trained volunteer group that can generate museum-quality native bee specimen so we can (finally) inventory the state’s bees and begin to track their populations.
Q: Specimens? Isn’t putting bees on a pin just another way of harming our bees? Why doesn’t the Atlas use non-destructive approaches?
A: Unlike butterflies and birds, which can largely be recognized to species with training and a pair of binoculars, most bees are impossible to tell apart unless an expert has them under a microscope. The only group that has been successfully identified from photographs to species are bumble bees and there is an excellent initiative, the PNW Bumble Bee Atlas, for those interested in non-lethal survey of bees. Volunteers in the Atlas make sure to get the most out of a bee. Specimens are curated to museum quality and records are uploaded to global biodiversity databases. These specimens can be checked over later by experts and can be used years later to obtain valuable scientific data such as pollen and DNA from the bee and any associated parasites and microorganisms. Also, the relative number of bees taken in our samples are orders of magnitude smaller than the actual population of bees at any given location. Research appears to confirm this finding; in one study heavy and repeated sampling of bees at the same location over successive years did not impact populations compared to upsampled sites. Finally, we recognize that if we don’t sample, species go undetected, making it hard to inform conservation decisions
Q: I don’t have any entomology experience. I didn’t take biology in college/university. Should I even bother enrolling?
A: No problem! Our programs are designed for people of varying experience levels. Its more important that you are organized, have attention to detail and have a fascination with bees.
Q: Is there support?
A: Yes. Regional survey teams, resources, and opportunities for classroom instruction are provided. The unofficial song for the Program is the Talking Heads song “Pulled up” (“I slipped, and then you pulled, You pulled me up”). Becoming a Master Melittologist is all about learning to support one another through life-long learning into bees.
Q: Is there a fee?
A: Yes. Program fees are due before finalizing your enrollment. Fees include a workbook, program materials, website access, basic bee collecting and curation equipment, online training and a field workshop. The cost is $185. Once certified, an annual participation fee of $25 will keep your membership active. This covers course maintenance, additional curation supplies and advanced training courses (which will be offered as a discount). We do offer a limited number of tuition waivers for people who are unable to pay the fees. Contact us if you want to explore a tuition waiver.
Q: I've been accepted into the program. What happens next?
A: We will send you email with instructions on how to take the online training and to sign you up for the summer field school. We will also mail a course book. We will also connect you with the leader of the closest team and dates and location for their next team event. We distribute your collection and curation equipment at the summer field school.
Q: Where is the summer field school held?
A: The exact locations are still to be determined, but there will be schools in the Portland area/Gorge, Willamette Valley, and Southern Oregon. The class will be a day-long event where you will catch bees, collect records and pin bees.