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Summit County public needed to help track endangered bees

Published: May 4, 2017 1:34 AM

Bee populations across the country are facing survival threats, and one local species—the rusty patched bumble bee—has recently been listed as federally endangered.

Summit Metro Parks and partner agencies hope to jumpstart public input into a new statewide citizen science project called the Ohio Bee Atlas. The project was launched jointly by several local organizations using the iNaturalist platform to document the distribution and identity of bumble bees.

Summit Metro Parks Biologist Marlo Perdicas will host an iNaturalist training workshop on Friday, May 19, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., at Happy Days Lodge (500 W. Streetsboro Rd., Peninsula in Cuyahoga Valley National Park). Perdicas said the training will focus on explaining iNaturalist and how to get started using the site—specifically for the Ohio Bee Atlas project.

“We encourage not only current volunteers but also the general public to join us and learn how to help inventory Ohio bees and all of our natural world,” said Perdicas.

In Summit Metro Parks, the last recorded sighting of the rusty patched bumble bee was in April of 1998 at Furnace Run Metro Park in Richfield. The sighting was noted by a graduate student working under pollinator expert Dr. Randy Mitchell, a professor of biology at The University of Akron who is currently a part of the Ohio Bee Atlas project. The bees may still be in our parks, but biologists need more eyes in the field to accurately account for the bees.

According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the rusty patched bumble bee was once common throughout Ohio. Its species occupied a variety of habitats including prairies, woodlands, marshes, agricultural landscapes, residential parks and gardens. Habitat loss, disease, pesticides, intensive farming and global climate change have contributed to the decline of this species, which is now in danger of becoming extinct.   

Bumble bees are not only important pollinators of crops and necessary for native wildflower reproduction, but also for creating seeds and fruits that feed wildlife.

The Ohio Bee Atlas project is the joint effort of Cleveland Metroparks, the Lake Erie Allegheny Partnership (LEAP) for Biodiversity, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, The Ohio State University, Summit Metro Parks, The University of Akron, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

For more information about the Ohio Bee Atlas project, visit go.osu.edu/ohiobeeatlas. To learn more about Summit Metro Parks or the iNaturalist training, call 330-865-8065 or visit summitmetroparks.org.

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