Minnesota Bumble Bee Atlas
Minnesota Bumble Bee Atlas: Incidental observations

Incidental observations

In addition to point and roadside surveys, incidental surveys can add to our understanding of bumble bee distributions in Minnesota. Incidental observations are simple sightings of bumble bees and can casually occur anywhere, any time, and do not have to be in your adopted grid cell. These surveys work great when you might be visiting an area where capturing and handling bumble bees is prohibited, such as within areas where the rusty-patched bumble bees has been recently found, and State and National Parks. Now that you have caught the bumble-bee-watching bug, incidental surveys will naturally happen, say for example while walking your dog. You may observe bumble bees visiting flowers and decide to stop and take a picture. These observations will not take the place of formal surveys, but they will help fill in information gaps throughout the state.

For these observations to count towards the Atlas project, they must include a photograph. Photographs for incidental observations may be taken of the bee directly on a flower or using the protocol described in the point surveys. Only in-focus photographs that provide enough detail for identification purposes should be submitted. Including information or photographs of the associated plant is also useful. For helpful tips on photographing bees click here.

Try using the Bumble Bee Watch app for Apple or Android to make uploading incidental observations quick and easy! Take photos of bumble bees, and directly submit the observation with an automatic time, date, and location stamp. This app is not recommended for use with formal Point or Roadside surveys.

To enter your sighting on the Bumble Bee Watch website:

  1. Click on Record a sighting

  2. Choose "Bumble Bee Watch" as the project.

  3. Enter your location and date

  4. Upload your photos.


  • Include only the best photos of each species. If you are not sure if photos are different species or not, enter them as different species.

  • Include observations of the same species of bee visiting different species of flowers, as it is great information to have.

  • Do your best to identify the species of flower that the bumble bee was visiting. Consider downloading the app iNaturalist to help you identify plants.

  • Download the Bumble Bee Watch app to directly and easily enter your observations from your smartphone.

  • Follow the same rules about location, private property, and general respect for others when collecting incidental observations.