By Jason Martin, AWS Stewardship Intern
Hello, my name is Jason and I'm a Stewardship Intern here at AWS. In addition to the many wonderful projects that are done in and around the watershed, one new project that we will be doing throughout the summer focuses on the native bee populations in the watershed. Some of you might be thinking, "What do bees have to do with the Anacostia?" Well, bees are some of the best (if not the best) pollinators in nature and much of the plant life in and around the Anacostia River and its watershed depends on them to survive and thrive.
Now you might be asking, "How are you going to catch and identify bees?" and, "There can’t be that many species to warrant a survey." You would be surprised to know that there are hundreds of species of bees in the DC area alone and each has its own habitat and flower species it likes. This immense diversity is worth looking into and documenting. The survey will be done at AWS's Anacostia Riparian Meadow Restoration (ARMR) project site by using "bowl traps," small plastic bowls that are white, blue, and yellow in color. These are the colors that attract bees (bees don't see the color red). The bowls are filled with soapy water (the soap breaks the surface tension of the water which prevents the bees from sitting on top of the water), and the bees think the bowl is a flower, land, and drown in the water. I know some people might have a problem with killing the bees but it is the only way to properly identify them. Many different species look similar to the naked eye and the only way to be certain in the identification is to look at the bee under a microscope, which would be impossible with a live bee.
The survey will be done at sites differing in the restoration progress, and also areas that are not being restored for comparison. There are six sites, three along one side of the Northwest Branch of the Anacostia River which are actively being restored into a riparian meadow, and three directly across the Northwest Branch where it is mowed grass. The restoration sites are in different stages -- one has been restored with native plants and allowed to grow for a year, another is in the process of being restored, and the other is still overrun with invasive plant species.
Now that you know what is being done and how you might be asking, "Why?" The answer is simply knowledge. By surveying different sites at different stages of restoration, including mowed areas with no restoration, we'll be able to determine if restoring meadow areas around the watershed have an effect on attracting native bee populations. More bees equal more pollination which leads to better plant dispersal, and is necessary for a healthy ecosystem and watershed. Not only that, more pollinators in the area mean more urban edible gardens and urban crops like the one at Eco City Farms are being pollinated.
We randomly caught and identified 51 species of bees last summer! Keep an eye on the blog since we will be sharing more information about this project with you all.
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