47 Briana Ezray – Mullerian mimicry and why telling bumble bee species apart by color can be hard.


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Briana Ezray received her BA in biology from Willamette University and worked for the Oregon Department of Agriculture on a survey of native bees pollinating crops. She began her PhD in 
Entomology at the Pennsylvania State University in Dr. Heather Hines Lab. Overall, her research involves topics such as bumble bee biogeography and mimicry, bee community disease ecology, and conservation biology. Specifically, her research examines two different directions which allow her to understand spatial, historical, and seasonal dynamics in bumble bees. First, she is working to better describe and understand the evolutionary and ecological processes driving why bumble bees mimic or match each other’s color patterns in certain geographic regions. Second, she is exploring seasonal patterns of disease prevalence and transmission in bee communities.

Listen in to this episode to learn more about Mullerian mimicry, it’s role in the evolution of bumblebees, and why it is the subject of Briana’s research.

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“Species that have some sort of poison or danger like a sting will mimic each other so that it’s a kind of group defense.“ – Briana Ezray

Show Notes:

  • What bumblebees are usually doing right after hibernation
  • What gives the bumblebees their color
  • How to identify the most common types of bumblebees in Western Oregon
  • What is Mullerian mimicry and how it affects how similar some bumblebees look
  • Why certain visual traits are localized to certain areas
  • What the “standard hybrid zone” is and how it affects the coloring of bumblebee species
  • What Briana is trying to accomplish in researching these coloring complexities
  • How Briana was able to study the evolution of the bee coloring
  • When a bee would avoid Mullerian mimicry to stand out from other species

“Oregon is one of those places that has a lot of species [of bumblebee] that look like each other.“ – Briana Ezray

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