If you’re not into Black Friday shopping, you might like to join fellow naturalists in the Queen Quest Blitz. Hosted by the Queen Quest Project, which is a joint effort between the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Boosters Team and University of Minnesota’s Bee Squad, citizen scientists will search for bumble bee queens on Black Friday. So gather your friends and family and get your team together so you can participate in this fun, yet worthwhile project. Sign up to join Queen Quest!
Protocol — once you’ve registered, get your step-by-step instructions on how to search for the queen bees.
INaturalist — a place to post your observations using an app
Queen Bee Habitat
Bumble bee queens are found in both rural and urban landscapes. According to a recent study by Neal M Williams etal entitled Fantastic bees and where to find them: locating the cryptic overwintering queens of a western bumble bee. “Our data suggest that overwintering and foraging habitats are likely distinct, and queens’ selection of overwintering sites may be shaped by environmental stressors of the year. In our study area, queens overwintered in litter beneath cypress trees, where no floral resources exist.”
Although they studied other areas, they found the most queens under cypress and pine trees. Queen hibernacula* were found short distances from the trunks and shaded from the direct sun. The researchers concluded that the needle litter beneath pines likely buffers against both hot, dry summers and cold, wet winters. That, along with the overhead branches, likely moderates temperature and moisture fluctuations.
Another reason bumble bee queens may seek out nest sites under pines is the rodent population. I was surprised to learn that rodents prey on bumble bees. Rodents do not construct their burrows under pines, preferring grassy meadows and shrubby locations.
Although this study took place in California, because we here in Wisconsin and the upper Midwest have such an abundance and variety of pine trees, I suspect this is where we might find bumblebees overwintering as well.
*hibernacula are chambers or pockets within soil where animals overwinter.
Thank you Heather Holm for making me aware of this Black Friday event.