Bees of the Northeastern U.S.

Science Center Objects

Declines of pollinators have engendered worldwide concern, but trends in the faunas of most insect pollinators, including bees, remain uncertain.  We are studying the bee fauna of southern Rhode Island to provide baseline information about the current fauna, and information about bee-flower interactions.

The Challenge: The bee fauna of Rhode Island remains poorly known, except for holdings in the University of Rhode Island insect collection and data from scattered other sources.  Bee diversity in other northeastern states is being described (some faunal studies were recently published), and we are contributing to that effort by characterizing the Rhode Island bee fauna.

The Science: Bees in the University of Rhode Island insect collection are now listed in a computer database, and Rhode Island bee collections from scattered sources are being compiled. Surveys of bees visiting cultivated highbush blueberry, and of bees at Rhode Island sites including Napatree Point, the Great Swamp, and the Carter Preserve, have been performed using standardized and repeatable protocols.  We are also investigating bee-flower interactions, including effects of nectar robbery by carpenter bees on fruit set and quality of highbush blueberries.

The Challenge: Data from all available sources, including the University of Rhode Island insect collection, American Museum of Natural History databases, recent field surveys, and scattered collections, are being are being compiled to produce a database of the bee fauna of Rhode Island.

Bumble bee visiting thistle

Bumble bee visiting thistle

(Credit: Aya Margaret Rothwell. Courtesy: Aya Margaret Rothwell)