Over 4000 species of bees can be found in North America, many of them occuring in the midwest to western States. They are the primary pollinators of plants and agricultural crops. A report published in 2006 by the Committee on the Status of Pollinators in North America, National Research Council, found that pollinator populations in North America are in decline or lack sufficient data to be effectively evaluated.
Effective surveillance and monitoring of
bee populations is highly dependent on
valid species identification and
robust taxonomic classifications.
In response to this issue, researchers at the Department of the Interior (USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center), US Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (Logan Native Bee Laboratory), and various academic groups have completed much of the work necessary to best survey and monitor native bees (http://online.sfsu.edu/~beeplot) and are beginning to survey bees in National Parks, Refuges, States, and other geographic areas. Effective surveillance and monitoring of bee populations is highly dependent on valid species identification and robust taxonomic classifications.
Online Interactive Bee Identification Guides
In 2005, the NBII first provided a grant to its partner Discover Life to support a project on developing online interactive identification keys or Guides to the Bee Genera of North America East of the Mississippi River. With additional support from the Ambrose Monell Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, researchers involved in the project proceeded to develop a set of 68 separate online identification guides for 775 species of bees found east of the Mississippi River.
These guides are now the standard for
bee taxonomic names and identifications in Eastern North America.
Since males and females of some bee species have to be identified separately, this has actually worked out to building guides for 1550 kinds of things. Project members have written over 1460 identification characters for the guides and taken, borrowed with permission, and drawn over 4500 illustrations of species and characters of species. These guides are now the standard for taxonomic names and identifications in Eastern North America and are used by hundreds of people. In 2008, the NBII provided an additional grant to continue the project and extend the guides westward covering bee species occuring in States west of the Mississippi River. Identification guides to species in the West are limited to old literature and about 500 species do not even have published names.