A Nichols Worth Of Nature


Bumble bees are charismatic and easily recognizable pollinators thanks to their large size, loud buzz, and distinctive color patterns. They play an incredibly important role in sustaining the health of our environment by pollinating flowers in natural and urban areas, and by contributing to successful harvests on farms.

To help understand and conserve our state’s bumble bees, the Missouri Department of Conservation and the University of Missouri partnered with the Xerces Society to launch the Missouri Bumble Bee Atlas in 2020. The Atlas is a community science project covering the entire state that creates an opportunity for people to participate in pollinator conservation. Community scientists, like you, will work alongside researchers to better understand the status, distribution, and habitat needs of bumble bees throughout Missouri.

The variety of Missouri’s ecosystems supports about 13 different species of bumble bees. A few of these species, such as the Southern Plains Bumble Bee, are in trouble and face an uncertain future. A recent study led by the International Union on Conservation of Nature’s Bumble Bee Specialist Group demonstrate that one-quarter of North America’s nearly fifty species of bumble bees are undergoing dramatic population declines.

The causes of decline are not fully understood, but the following are likely contributing: habitat loss, degradation or fragmentation, pesticide use, climate change, low genetic diversity, and the introduction and distribution of pathogens through commercial pollinators. Regardless of the ultimate cause, protecting and managing existing habitat or creating new habitat are some of the most immediate and productive steps that can be taken.

I recently became a member of the Missouri Bumble Bee Atlas which is a community science project covering the entire state creating an opportunity for people to participate in pollinator conservation.

In 2023, 64 people completed surveys documenting 3,188 bumble bees and 291 habitat assessments conducted across the state. Six species of bumble bees were detected.

With your help, we can quickly collect scientific-quality data throughout Missouri and contribute to bumble bee conservation. Training is provided to equip you with the necessary resources, skills, and confidence to conduct your own bumble bee surveys as a community scientist. Our effort will help conservation biologists, restoration practitioners, and policy makers do a better job protecting, restoring, and managing effective habitat that support healthy bumble bee populations.

The Missouri Bumble Bee Atlas is part of a coalition of existing Xerces Society-affliliated Bumble Bee Atlas projects covering 15 states vastly improving our understanding of North America’s bumble bees and creating a network of pollinator conservationists.

The 2024 surveys started June 1 and continue though September 30. You only survey 45 minutes at one site and you can conduct as many or as few surveys as you want. It’s really kind of fun - you can survey by yourself or with others.

What a great way to get outside and enjoy nature, contribute to a worthwhile project and become a community scientist.

Check out mobumblebeeatlas.org for full information and sign up!

Aerodynamically, the bumble bee shouldn’t be able to fly, but the bumble bee doesn’t know it so it goes on flying anyway. -Mary Kay Ash, Entrepreneur