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2501Re: [beemonitoring] Alternative Methodology Question

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  • Sam Droege
    Nov 8, 2012
      Hi Jessica

      You have seen some nice thoughtful replies to your questions from the list and undoubtedly you have gotten more offline.

      Similar to what Jack has mentioned, I would say that if you want to document bee diversity you will have to be working with specimens that have been killed simply because their ID is difficult and nobody can identify all bee captured to the species level in an area without having them on a pin.

      We all have to wrestle with the moral aspects of killing our study animals, and justify it to our funders and collaborators, but see some of the lines of reasoning below that I use that I think diminish the need to worry about our impacts on the population.  These are meant as simple bullet points to use when thinking about the topic.

      1.  We often run studies where we run bowls in the same place for several days.  We always continue to get bees throughout the time period, usually the last run is about half the first.
      2.  The average bee has a flight period of 5 weeks, thus bowls only capture one fraction of all the bees that come out throughout the year.
      3.  Many of the bees captures are Lasioglossum and Halictus, those groups are Eusocial so many of the bees captured are not reproductive
      4.  Solitary bees (99% of the catch) make a series of cells, each cell is independent of the other and not usually tended by the female and if the female dies (from bowls or whatever) the cells created are "good to go" thus, on average, only half a captured female's potential progeny output are affected
      5.  Males do not provide parental care of any kind and thus their captures have little impact on the next generation.
      6.  Overall mortality of bees from bowls compared to the thousands of bees present in a given field is almost certainly not additive but compensated for through higher births, lower deaths, and immigration.  No studies have shown a next year impact from sampling, for example.
      7.  The number of bees in any area is high and sources of mortality from predators, bad weather, pesticides, parasites, disease, and cuckoo bees far outweigh mortality from a bowl sample.

      That is the rational response to , but it does not really speak to the emotional responses we have to the killing of things we study.  Yet, we have to be careful, perhaps, in the lines of reasoning that we apply to this topic.  There is a completely understandable tendency to transfer the complex and well reasoned value systems we have created for humans, and for some, all vertebrate animals, whole cloth to that of bees.  However, to apply an animal rights system based on vertebrates to the killing of bees for scientific study is difficult to do consistently for all insects in our lives.   It is even more difficult to demonstrate philosophically that we should try to diminish our killing of bees, but that it is ok to actively kill other insects.  This is simply because we overlook the many invertebrates we kill every day.     For example, the Dutch have documented that they kill billions of insects each month simply from insects striking their licence plates as they drive.  This is nothing new (other than the quantification of the deaths)  but is the death of insects something that most people think about in their internal formulation of whether to drive somewhere or not?  So, in a system that tries to reduce the unintended death of bees, (requiring a high cost in time, statistical power, and other resources) what of looking at those deaths we generate from driving our vehicles, mowing our grass, the use of pesticides (organic or not), and washing our clothes (killing many millions of dust mites over our life time) and ask why we do not apply these values equally.

      This is a good topic, and it clearly creates internal reactions in all of us, but there are many interesting levels to consider that I think have not been considered fully in the past.  In the end, we all have to make up our own minds and since we are all different there will always be many strategies at play in the world of bee study.  Not killing bees because it makes us uncomfortable is a completely valid reason to look at alternatives...it is the inspection and balancing of the big picture that continues to fascinates me.


      Sam Droege  sdroege@...                     
      w 301-497-5840 h 301-390-7759 fax 301-497-5624
      USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
      BARC-EAST, BLDG 308, RM 124 10300 Balt. Ave., Beltsville, MD  20705
                Death is like the insect
                Menacing the tree,
                Competent to kill it,
                But decoyed may be.

                Bait it with the balsam,
                Seek it with the knife,
                Baffle, if it cost you
                Everything in life.

                Then, if it have burrowed
                Out of reach of skill,
                Ring the tree and leave it,--
                'T is the vermin's will.

      From:Jessica Beckham <jessbeck47@...>
      To:"beemonitoring@yahoogroups.com" <beemonitoring@yahoogroups.com>
      Date:11/08/2012 11:42 AM
      Subject:[beemonitoring] Alternative Methodology Question
      Sent by:beemonitoring@yahoogroups.com


      Hello All,

      I am a PhD student who is developing a project to assess bee pollinator diversity in urban gardens in my area (Denton, Texas).  I understand that the best methods for assessing bee diversity involve collection of bees via hand netting and bowl traps, especially for a novice at bee identification like myself.  However, I am wondering if there are any accepted no-kill methods for assessing bee diversity. The reason is that, although I have had multiple local urban gardeners and homeowners express interest in my project, some are hesitant to participate because they realize that bees are important resources and they do not want to help reduce the already limited populations.  To an extent I can see this point and am thrilled that citizens are aware of the situation that our pollinators are facing.  I thought I would address this group to see if anyone has used/knows of methodology for assessing bee diversity without killing bees.  Furthermore, has anyone dealt with similar experiences?  

      Thanks in advance!

      Jessica Beckham
      Ph.D Student
      University of North Texas, Institute of Applied Science

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