Coinciding with the annual wildflower bloom on Mount Revelstoke this year comes a new project surrounding the pollinators that help make the colourful meadows possible.
Mount Revelstoke National Park staff are working in partnership with the Province of BC and the Royal Saskatchewan Museum throughout the summer on an inventory of alpine pollinators at the location, focusing strongly on what diverse bee species are present in the park.
Mount Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks ecologist team leader Natalie Stafl says by creating a greater image of what bees use Mount Revelstoke as a habitat, more can be done to protect the various species.
“The biggest thing with bees right now is that we have a lack of knowledge. We don’t know where they are, we don’t know how abundant they are, we don’t necessarily exactly know what habitat type they use,” says Stafl. “If we don’t know what’s out here, we can’t protect it.”
Through weekly deployment of blue vane traps, which attract the bees through their bright yellow and blue colouring, the team at Mount Revelstoke are able to trap and preserve bees in areas which contain wildflowers frequented by the pollinators.
Food grade glycol within the traps then preserves the bees, which at the end of the season will be sent to the Royal Saskatchewan Museum for analysis.
While Stafl says on-site identification is possible with bumble bees, other species need greater analysis to truly identify.
“For us to identify species on site, it’s really quite difficult. With bumblebees you can, but we’re also interested in the 400-plus specimens of other species that are here, and those ones you actually need to look under a microscope,” says Satfl.
Throughout B.C., there are currently 459 confirmed species of bees, though there is the possibility that this number may be closer to 600 species according to Stafl.
The unique variety of flowers which bloom on Mount Revelstoke due to the combination of wet and dry environments also bring with them a potential for unique and widely varying species of bees.
These naturally varying flowers, including white sitka valerians, red castillejas “paintbrush” flowers and early season glacier lilies, bring high traffic into the alpine as the blooms peak in late July and throughout August .
Many unique flowers, Stafl explains, are dependent on specialty bee species to thrive, while the bees are dependent on the flowers to survive.
“Some non-bumble bee species are specialists, so they specialize on only one plant. So if you have unique flowering ecosystems you’ll get unique bees associated with them,” says Stafl. “If we know what bees are present and we know what they forage on, then we can protect that habitat instead of altering it.”
Beyond the project occurring on Mount Revelstoke, Stafl urges Revelstokians to get involved in bee inventory through the Bumble Bee Watch app, which allows citizens to contribute to the cause.
By taking and uploading geo-tagged photos of bees, the app identifies where species of bees are present throughout the country, aiding in the effort of creating a better understanding of the pollinators in a non-destructive fashion.
“If someone can take a really good clear picture and identify – even if they identify incorrectly, someone can change it as they’re going through – then they have a record for that area,” explain Stafl of the project. “It’s a really good way of adding data.”
According to Stafl, wildflower bloom will remain in its peak throughout August for those interested in visiting the park and taking in the colourful scenery.
To learn more about Bumble Bee Watch, visit their website at www.bumblebeewatch.org.