Science Center Objects

Our research on pollinators is focused on how to identify, count, and assess populations of bees and butterflies. We are currently developing extensive tools for identifying and monitoring native bees, and for how to estimate numbers of local populations that inhabit fragile ecosystems.

The Karner blue butterfly is a native pollinator that was listed as an endangered species in 1992. Recently this spring, there w

Karner blue butterfly, Lycaeides melissa samuelis (Public domain.)


Estimation of Density and Abundance of Biological Populations on National Parks and Wildlife Refuges Through Distance Sampling

Assessing the status and trends of populations of biological organisms is an important management goal and a recurrent theme in USGS research. Often, the most basic question of “how many are there?” remains elusive, thus making management decisions more difficult. This study continues a long-term commitment of technical support for the use of distance sampling for wildlife population abundance estimation in our National Parks and Wildlife Refuges.






Endangered Rusty Patched Bumblebee (Bumbus affinis)

Endangered Rusty Patched Bumblebee (Bumbus affinis) (Credit: Sam Droege, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. Public domain.)



Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

The USGS Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Program designs and develops large and small scale surveys for native bees. As part of that program we also develop identification tools and keys for native bee species. One aspect of creating those tools is creating accurate and detailed pictures of native bees and the plants and insects they interact with.


svastra obliqua, female

Lovely elegance of Svastra obliqua, from Easter neck national wildlife refuge on the eastern shore of Maryland in Kent County. A species of late-summer composites, it is particularly fond of the sunflower and daisy groups. (Credit: Sam Droege, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. Public domain.)






Quick Background on the Mid Atlantic region's native bees

Bees are tiny, one bush or one clump of perennials is often all it takes to foster native bees in your yard. Within a mile of your yard (urban or rural) there are at least over 100 species of bees looking for the right plants. Attracting and tending these native bees on your property is all about planting the right flowers and flowering bushes.





Anthophora villosula

Anthophora villosula - A recent introduction into the Mid-Atlantic states, this species loves urban areas where, in the spring,  it nests under people's decks and in upturned root masses while foraging among the local gardens and, in particular, azalea plantings. (Credit: Sam Droege, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. Public domain.)






Introduced and Alien Bee Species of North America (North of Mexico)

Surveys by the USGS Native Bee Laboratory have uncovered several new alien bee species in the United States.  The data we and our collaborators are collecting tracks the spread of these species, at least in a coarse way.  We hope to expand surveys in collaboration with our federal and state land management partners as we detect more invading species. Information on distributions and status of the approximately 40 alien species come from the literature, active North American collectors, online collection data available via the Global Mapper on, and John Ascher’s compilation of distributional data.  Thanks for the contributions from Mike Arduser, John Ascher, Rob Jean, Jack Neff, Cory Sheffield, and Robbin Thorp.








Halictus ligatus

Halictus ligatus is so similar morphologically to Halictus poeyi that resolution of local specimens along the Atlantic coast requires DNA Barcode analysis. (Credit: Sam Droege, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. Public domain.)





DNA Barcoding for Identifying Native Bee Species

Traditionally, bee identification has relied on taxonomic methods centered on descriptions of morphological differences between species. However, for many species, separate keys are required for identifying adult males and females and immature life stages. These keys are commonly unavailable. The lack of distinguishing morphological characters useful for separating closely related species is a common problem in many bee species, reducing the effectiveness and completeness of bee diversity surveys and general biological studies of bees


Bee (Andrena vicina)

Bee (Andrena vicina) (Credit: Sam Droege, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. Public domain.)







Native Bee Status and Vulnerability to Climate Change in National Parks

Mountain tops and Coastal Dunes - These are perhaps the most vulnerable locations in the United States to climate change in the lower 48 states. Native bees also face challenges due to loss of the plants, from which they gather nectar and pollen, and from introduced diseases and general loss of habitat. Additionally, both Mountain Tops and Dunes contain bees that are only found in these isolated habitats. As regions warm and seas rise these species may be trapped without a place to go.