It is possible that when you arrive at a pre-selected site, you’ll find that survey conditions for bumble bees may not be optimal. We encourage folks to be flexible, and opportunistic, but to stay within their assigned grid cell. As such, bring resources with you to navigate, including printed maps, as cell service is not available in many parts of Minnesota.
Resources to help you plan your trip (note: we do not guarantee the veracity of any of these resources, we simply provide them as tools to help plan your trip. To our knowledge, these are some of the best and most reliable mapping resources available, though alternatives certainly exist):
Google Maps with Overlaid Grid (you will be able to find the grid number of your adopted cell to help you plan a trip)
Minnesota Atlas and Gazeteer - available from many outdoor retailers and bookstores
USGS Topo Maps – available from many outdoor retailers and as downloads
DNR Recreation Compass - interactive online map with public land information including contacts for land managers
Conducting a Roadside Survey
Step 1: Plan your survey route
Use a section of a route from the google map above, or select a stretch of road that is at least 10 miles long. Ideally, the stretch of road would have several obvious open patches when looking at aerial photos/maps; a long stretch of forested road is unlikely to yield many bumble bees.
Step 2: Begin your survey
Once on your selected route, stop at the first patch of available flowers that you observe. Please park carefully, follow local regulations and be aware of any safety precautions. Many roadsides are regularly mown within the first 8 feet in from the road edge. The best habitat is likely to be between 8 feet in from the edge of the road and the start of the adjacent property. Be mindful of safety with traffic along roadsides. Start by simply observing the patch visually-- if you observe bee activity, begin the survey. If there is no bee activity, proceed to the next patch of flowers and repeat.
When beginning a survey, start by filling out the top of the datasheet regarding location, timing and weather information, and then start your 15-minute timer. While looking for bumble bees, you should wander from flower patch to flower patch along the roadside area. Focus on ALL flowering plants, not just those that are most abundant or showy—different bumble bees are sometimes attracted to different flowers. When you find a bumble bee, capture it in a vial (either directly or using an insect net), note the plant species that it was visiting, and place the vial in a chilled cooler. Be sure to keep bees from different flowers also separated in the cooler so you remember later. Take a picture of each plant, including its flowers and leaves, for later confirmation or identification. The smartphone app iNaturalist is a great identification resource for wildflowers and has the capability to save photos and locations of all your observations. Special care is needed with handling of all bumble bees, but those surveying in areas where you are more likely to find rusty-patched bumble bees, with grids adjacent to recent observations, should be particularly careful. If a possible rusty-patched is noticed during collection it should be photographed and released as soon as possible.
Helpful Tip: Place a petal of the flower into each vial to remind you which species of flower that particular bee was visiting. Alternatively, use a small piece of paper, a grease pencil etc. to document and connect each bee to its flowering plant.
Step 3: Collect bumble bee data
Once the 15-minute survey is over, record each individual bee on the Bumble Bee Survey data sheet and photo document each individual bee as described in Step 4 of the Point Survey. For tips on photographing bees click here.
Special note: If you have completed advanced bumble bee identification training or have experience with bumble bee identification, contact your Program Coordinator for a different protocol where you can take representative photos of easily identifiable bumble bee species including impatiens, bimaculatus, griseocollis, and ternarius. Based on previous work, these species will comprise ~80% of the bees you will see. You will also be given different instructions for data entry.
Step 4: Collect habitat data
Fill out the Habitat Assessment Form for each roadside stop. The form asks for information on the survey area as well as surrounding habitat.
Step 5: Repeat
Drive at least 1/2 mile down the road, find another patch of flowering plants, and conduct another survey starting at Step 2. Each Roadside survey should consist of five 15-minute surveys within a ~10 mile stretch of road.
Step 6: Complete documentation
Ensure that all data sheets are complete and that you have collected all necessary habitat information. While it might be tempting to leave some of this information for later, or when you get home, taking the time to do it while on site will reduce errors and increase the quality of the data you collect.
Step 7: Submit your data
For instructions on submitting data, click here.