In 2017, a challenge cost-share agreement was established between Olivet Nazarene University and the USDA Forest Service to study bee life at Midewin, including whether the federally listed endangered rusty patched bumble bee (the first bee species in the continental U.S. to be declared endangered - 2017) is present on the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.
ONU monitors have been active for three seasons. They spotted two rusty patched bumble bees last year – and their studies year-over-year have provided information about a variety of other species of bumble bees and their life habits.
The data that ONU sssistant professor Derek Rosenberger and students have been tracking helps measure how the restoration work of Midewin volunteers, partners and staff is helping to bring back habitat for native Illinois prairie species.
At Midewin, we are working with over 275 species of native Illinois prairie plants in an effort to encourage the return of native prairie species, including bees.
Monitors look for bees in 100-meter transects. They spend 30 minutes in each transect. Barb Krupa, an undergraduate zoology major at ONU, is active at Midewin as often as three days weekly, depending on weather.
In addition to rusty patched bumble bee sightings, brown-belted, black and gold and common eastern bumble bees were the most numerous and consistent species spotted (listed in descending order). In late July 2018, bumble bees were seen in nearly all transects, with varying levels at each one.
ONU recently released a report on the findings from 2018 monitoring, “A survey of bumble bees at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie with special focus on the federally endangered rusty patched bumble bee, bombus affinis.” The report is available online, here: https://tinyurl.com/y2uqdyop.