Did you know that there are endangered species right here in Milwaukee County? Species extinction is increasing at an alarming rate around the globe, and here in Milwaukee, the decisions we make in our parks and gardens over the next decade will impact the federally endangered Rusty Patched Bumblebee. They're one of 11 bumble bee species that have been spotted in parks in the county, many of which are in decline due to habitat loss, disease and climate change.
When bees are in trouble, however, it means we're in trouble too. Bees are one of the most important insects on the planet - as their role of pollinating a large variety of plant species, including food crops, provides the foundation for food for many other kinds of wildlife, as well as much of our own food.
The Bumble Bee monitoring program helps us understand where individual species are found and where they are absent, which habitat types they are associated with, and which species of flowers different species prefer. By comparing results to previous years, it also helps identify if specific species are declining. With this data we can implement the best management strategies to protect and attract bumble bee populations within our Parks. Monitoring bumble bees also provides an indicator for how other species of pollinators and insects are faring within our Parks.
Over the past three years the Milwaukee County Parks Natural Areas team has led an annual bumble bee survey, and now they're seeking more volunteers to help with the 2021 season bee count.
After signing up to become a bumble bee monitor you'll receive online training and be assigned a Natural Area within a Milwaukee County park. You'll need to visit your adopted spot six times throughout the season to take photographs of bumble bees, and submit your photos to the Wisconsin DNR’s Bumble Bee Brigade website for verification.
If you or someone you know is interested in participating in the program, please contact Halley at ParksComSci@milwaukeecountywi.gov or 414-897-3124.