In September Databasing Assistant, Hadel Go, of the American Museum of Natural History - Division of Invertebrate Zoology, visited several NJ Audubon sanctuaries and the nyjer thistle and S.A.V.E.™ sunflower fields of the Liberty Farm of Sandyston, NJ and the Roseline’s Farm & Bakery in Augusta, NJ to survey for bee species.
According to Ms. Go, "The goal of this survey is to comb through NJ and collect bees to supplement the museum and university collections, which comprise the bulk of our data, for our Bees of NJ Checklist. Some specimens from these collections are over a hundred years old; we want to make sure to include all the species that exist in the state today. There are nonnative species creeping in and areas that have not been sampled including several NJ Audubon sites." Currently there is no official reference list for the bees of New Jersey.
Although all bee species are being identified during the survey, it is the wild bees that are of special interest. Wild bees refers to a very large and diverse group that excludes honeybees. There are around 20,000 species of bees in the world and North America is home to some 3,500 species. "The Bees of NJ Checklist so far includes over 300 species," said Ms. Go.
Ms. Go's survey has collected a wide variety of bees, including two NJ state records and some that are not common for this region. "It was exciting to learn that I had collected bees never found in NJ before.” said Ms. Go. “Dr. John S. Ascher, Melittologist and AMNH research scientist, identifies all the bees I collect. He has accumulated most of the data we have and I am assisting him in finalizing this checklist. Dr. Jerry Rozen, Curator of the AMNH bee collection who resides in Bergen County, has also tremendously contributed to our data with over 60 years of collecting in NJ."
"All elements of an ecosystem are important to the function of that ecosystem. If one element of the system is removed, the system makes adjustments. However you may not know what the effect of that adjustment is until after it has happened. That's why finding out exactly what native bee species are present in NJ is so important to the work NJ Audubon is doing, especially with the type of habitat restoration we work on in the agricultural communities of the state," said John Parke, Stewardship Project Director of NJA. "Native bees and other pollinators are essential building blocks of our food system, as well as keeping ecological balance in the landscape. NJ Audubon applauds native bee research that provides missing information on these beneficial insects."
According to the USDA's Farm Management for Native Bees, “Over 100 crop species in North America require insect pollination to be productive. Populations of managed non-native honey bees have declined in recent years. While honey bees are still very important pollinators, encouraging populations of native bees can provide 'pollination insurance' during times when honey bees are not available or are experiencing population decline. At the same time, native bees can increase yields for many crops."
Studies in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware indicate, "Native bees will often visits flowers in wet or cold conditions, when honey bees remain in the hive; many native bees forage earlier or later in the day than non-native honey bees, and native bees pollinate several fruit crops, such as apples, cherries, blueberries, cranberries and tomatoes, far more effectively than non-native honey bees on a bee-per-bee basis."
"Anyone can contribute to the Bees of New Jersey survey data by photographing bees (no honeybees please) and posting pictures on www.bugguide.net or sending them to Ms. Go at email@example.com; clear close-up images that can be identified to species will be useful to the study. If you have a Flickr account, you can join the study's Bees of NJ group and add your photos. You can also contact Ms. Go if interested in collecting from your backyard or school." Said Ms. Go, "It's essential to know what bees we have. With that baseline information, we can begin monitoring populations, locate and protect important nesting sites, provide food plants, and most importantly appreciate these amazing and beautiful creatures."