Feeling a bit cooped up and wanting to get out in nature? Learn about your backyard and help science by participating in a bioblitz. A bioblitz is an event that lets community members and biologists work together exploring an area and documenting the species that live there. Appalachian Headwaters’ new Pollinator Center will be hosting several bioblitzes over the coming months focused on insects, particularly butterflies and native bees. Follow us to learn about upcoming programs in Appalachia, or check within your own community to join a local event.
How does a bioblitz work? It’s pretty simple! We’ll head out on a nice sunny day and spend a few hours exploring, taking pictures, and recording simple data about what we see. Experts on Appalachian Headwaters staff will help participants identify their discoveries, so it’s a great chance to learn a little about the species that share our state. Once a species is identified, it will be posted to a free Community Science, crowd-sourced website like iNaturalist (https://www.inaturalist.org), eButterfly (https://www.e-butterfly.org), or Bumble BeeWatch (https://www.bumblebeewatch.org). From there, students, scientists, policy makers, and members of the community can use this information to learn about the incredible biodiversity in Appalachia.
What will you see? In early spring, insects are just starting to wake up from a long winter. In our region, butterfly species like the Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa) and Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis) spend the winter locally hibernating as adults. They start waking up on warm days and flying around a bit before seeking shelter again. We might observe heralds of spring like West Virginia White (Pieris virginiensis) and Spring Azure (Celastrina ladon and other closely related species) butterflies, which spend their winters in the chrysalis, or pupal stage.
Bumble bee queens begin to emerge at this time from their winter burrows underground, looking for nectar and pollen to begin building up energy stores and raising a new family. One early riser in our area is the Two-spotted bumble bee (Bombus bimaculatus). Queens of this species have the typical furry, yellow-and-black look associated with bumble bees. These ladies will also have a distinct black dot on the upperside of the thorax. While this dot might not differentiate her from all of the other species we could encounter, it is one of several traits that separate her from neighbors like the Yellow bumble bee (B. fervidus). Yellow bumble bees also start to emerge early in spring but unlike the Two-spotted bumble bee, most queens will have a large black band stretching all the way across their upper thorax, instead of a simple dot. Both species will be anxious to find food to rebuild their energy stores after the long winter, and will be actively searching for flowers.
Join the fun! Grab a camera, binoculars, or just a companion and explore nature!