At least 55 of Vermont's native, wild bee species need significant conservation action

Agapostemon virescens female

With over 350 species in Vermont, wild bees are a diverse and ecologically important insect group. As one of the most important groups of pollinators, bees provide essential ecological and agricultural services. Documented declines of a few species have caused concern about a possible collapse of all bee populations. However, our understanding of the conservation status, threats, and even the natural history of many species is still in its infancy. Over the past decade, thousands of community scientists and professional biologists have helped us to survey wild bees across Vermont, allowing us to assess their conservation status for the first time.

This report addresses current knowledge about the conservation status of wild bees. The domestic Western Honey Bee is important to agriculture and the economy, but can also pose a threat to wild bees. Learn more about The Problem with Honey Bees...

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Current Knowledge

20% of Vermont's 352 bee species were discovered during the Vermont Wild Bee Survey


Thanks to the efforts of thousands of community scientists and biologists, Vermont is one of the few states that has a relatively complete assessment of its bee fauna. Together, we’ve recorded wild bee species in every county and all biophysical regions in the state. Nearly half of the 352 bee species and a quarter of the more than 50,000 occurrence records came from community scientists! Over 20,000 observation records of bee-plant interactions revealed that 225 bee species visited at least 342 different plant genera in 92 families. We have transformed historic museum collections and all of our modern surveys into digital datasets that are open and freely available online from the Vermont Atlas of Life. Despite our collective efforts, we still lack robust population monitoring and key natural history information for many bee species.

Learn more about our discoveries…

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Anthroprogenic change threatens many of Vermont’s native bees

While declines in domesticated Western Honeybee survival have received a lot of attention, many native wild bees may also be in serious trouble. The causes of population declines are not fully understood and vary widely by species; however, the myriad of threats include land use change and habitat destruction, introduced species, pesticides, and climate change.

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55 species and 12 Important Bee Areas identified as high conservation priorities

Armed with a robust assessment of the status of most wild bee species in Vermont, we are now able to suggest locations, habitats, and individual species that should be the highest priority for bee conservation efforts. We have developed a conservation watch list that includes 55 native bee species. Many of these species are regional specialties found nowhere else in the region and Vermont plays an outsized role in ensuring their global survival. We modeled the distribution of most bee species in Vermont, allowing us to identify important habitats and areas with unique and diverse bee communities. Some of these areas we have proposed as Important Bee Areas, priority locations for protection and bee-focused land management.

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Next Steps

A collaborative and inclusive “Vermont Conservation Strategy for Pollinators” is needed to maximize conservation success

Eastern Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa virginica)

Although we have learned a lot over the last decade, our understanding of Vermont’s wild bees remains a work in progress. Additional surveys, population monitoring, adaptive management, and a better understanding of their natural history are sorely needed. Over a century of information gleaned from historic natural history collections and surveys conducted across the state during the last decade provide us with a rich baseline to prioritize and implement conservation actions now. Collaborations between scientists, public agencies, conservation organizations, land owners, land managers, and even honey bee keepers will be necessary to effectively protect Vermont’s diverse bee fauna now and for future generations.

Learn more about what we can do...

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