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TROY, Mo. — The Show-Me State is counting bumblebees now that bee populations have been decreasing in Missouri and across the Midwest.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports scientists are trying to count the pollinators in Missouri in order to stop their decline.

All of this work will help scientists track bee populations long-term and update their understanding of where bees live, what flowers they love, and how to better protect them.

“In insects, there is a decline worldwide,” said Katie Lamke, conservation biologist for the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.  

“But in bumblebees, specifically about one-quarter of the species in North America are at risk of extinction. Habitat loss and exposure to pesticides and the spread of pathogens and parasites and disease.” 

Now some scientists with the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation have come up with a plan where conservationists and teachers get out into the field collecting bumblebees to count them and release them. 

Plan “bee” is for some citizen scientists willing to lend a hand and pick a location to go counting bumblebees. There’s an online workshop to teaches the ABCs of bees, and the confidence to count them in person. 

“Without getting stung, that’s what a lot of people think about with bees, they’re going to sting,” Lamke said. “But they’re never out to sting us. Most times when we see bees, they’re foraging.”  

“They’re so busy on that flower, trying to collect food and get it back to their nest that they don’t have time to sting us.” 

The information collected is part of the Missouri Bumble Bee Atlas that will help create a database and a comprehensive plan to help repopulate low numbers in the Show-Me State. 

“We catch bees using a net and put them into little viles like this,” Lamke said.

“You can use a little tube and put this in ice, and it makes the bee go dormant so we can take high-quality photographs and upload those to the internet where someone like myself can figure out which species we saw.  

“Then the bees are released unharmed cause they warm up in the sun. They’re also taking note of the habitat they’re in. What kind of area is it agricultural or a prairie or a woodland? And this gives us a huge database to look at and figure out some of trends like which plants are bumblebees utilizing in spring or summer or fall.  

“And that allows us to refine the ways we conserve bumblebees by improving the seed mixes and some of the features on the habitat that we know bumblebees are associated with.” 

Visit the organization’s website for more information about the project.