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Bee Survey Says... Numerous Species Found For First Time In Vermont This Summer

A two-spotted cuckoo nomad bee specimen
Spencer Hardy
Vermont Center For Ecostudies
Spencer Hardy, coordinator of the Vermont Wild Bee Survey in Chittenden County, found this bee in Colchester Wednesday and identified it as a two-spotted cuckoo nomad bee. The survey has found numerous species that hadn't previously been found in Vermont.

This summer, the Vermont Center for Ecostudies has spearheaded the Vermont Wild Bee Survey in Chittenden County. According to project coordinator Spencer Hardy, more than 320 species have been documented thus far — and nearly a dozen appear to be species of wild bees that were previously unknown to be in the state.

"Since the beginning of this project, we've found or documented at least 10 species that have never been recorded for Vermont, as far as we know," Hardy said Wednesday. "And that number's probably gonna change pretty quickly. Actually, I found a new one today to add to that list, so we're up to 11."

That eleventh bee Hardy just mentioned? Hardy identified it as a two-spotted cuckoo nomad bee, an identification which was seconded on iNaturalist.

"It's a parasitic bee," Hardy explained of this particular bee, "and instead of providing food for its own young, it finds another species and lays eggs in that bee's nest. And the food that was meant for the host then feeds the cuckoo nomad bee, which then takes over the nest [and] kills the offspring.”

Hardy said about three-quarters of the specimens collected in the survey still need to be formally identified.

"A lot of the identifications, we're gonna have to send out to experts somewhere," Hardy said. "There's a couple groups that, even with a good key and a good microscope … there’s only a couple people in the country that can identify them."

Citizen scientists are assisting in locating and capturing the wild bees in Chittenden County. Hardy said the specimen collection will continue into September and that there could be as many as 40 new species documented once the work is complete.

A study released last year by UVM and the Vermont Center for Ecostudies found that several of Vermont's native bumblebee species had declining — even disappearing — populations. Another recent study from those two organizations suggests that viruses found in managed honeybees may be contributing to that decrease in the state's wild bumblebee population.

Amy is an award winning journalist who has worked in print and radio in Vermont since 1991. Her first job in professional radio was at WVMX in Stowe, where she worked as News Director and co-host of The Morning Show. She was a VPR contributor from 2006 to 2020.
Meg Malone was a producer for Vermont Public Radio until January 2020. She joined VPR in May 2016 as digital producer for Vermont Edition.
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