Erin Schoenberg

Erin Schoenberg, project associate of the Center for Rural Affair's Farm and Community Program.

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Bumble bees are easily recognizable thanks to their loud buzz, fuzzy appearance, and distinct color patterns.

Throughout the U.S. and Canada, nearly 50 different species play a role in sustaining our environment’s health. Their pollination contributes to a successful harvest and helps maintain diverse plant communities.

Unfortunately, many bumble bees are experiencing dramatic population declines and face an uncertain future. While these declines are not fully understood, contributing factors include habitat loss, pesticide use, climate change, low genetic diversity, and the introduction and distribution of pathogens through commercial pollinators.

Some of the most immediate and productive steps to confront declines are to protect, restore, and manage habitat in a supportive way; and to participate in a community science project, like the Bumble Bee Watch.

Volunteers across the country can share photos online or via an app. Scientists then use that information to improve the ways we conserve bumble bees.

I adopted a grid cell last year for the Nebraska Bumble Bee Atlas, a project that goes even more in depth. A family member helped me net bumble bees, and it was rewarding to complete the habitat survey that goes along with each bee survey. It gave me the chance to acutely observe the plants in the area, note evidence of wildlife and livestock, pay more attention to wind and weather, and rekindle my wonder of nature.

For the upcoming 2021 season, grab your camera and experts can verify your findings. Together, we can understand the distribution of bee species and the plants they utilize during the growing season.

Learn more at bumblebeewatch.org.

Erin Schoenberg is a project associate at the Center for Rural Affairs.