Systematic surveys of wild bees in Vermont only began recently. In 2012, the Vermont Bumble Bee Atlas (VBBA) began a multi-year effort to assess the statewide status of the 17 Bumble Bee (Bombus) species historically known from the state. Seven years later, the Vermont Wild Bee Survey (VTBees) expanded this effort to the other 38 genera of wild bees. These projects each amassed more than 10,000 occurrence records. Combined with historical collections dating back more than a century, these data provide the first comprehensive understanding of wild bees across Vermont.

The earliest known Vermont bee record is a Half-black Bumble Bee (Bombus vagans) collected in 1848. These priceless early collections allow us to peer back in time; however, only 158 species are known to have been collected prior to 1962. Today, after a decade of field work, Vermont’s known species list boasts over 350 wild bee species, with some information available on the relative abundance and distribution of each species.

There are certainly still species within the state that have not yet been documented, and the status of others remains unclear. Moreover, the bee community is far from static. Scientists predict that several introduced species known to occur in neighboring states may become established in Vermont in the near future. Changes within the native fauna are also happening, but remain largely undetected without population monitoring. A decade of bumble bee surveys show significant changes in the species composition of this group, with a more detailed analysis of this group in the works.

Proportional area diagram showing foraging classification of Vermont's 352 bee species

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Community Science Contributions

Nearly half of the species and 22% of occurrence records came from community scientists!

Community scientists collecting bees
Vermont has the highest per capita engagement with iNaturalist and by far the highest proportion of bee species that have been recorded on the platform (49% vs. approximately 20% nationally). More than 1,500 people have submitted photo-observations of bees , including several that were new species for the state. Crowd-source platforms are likely to continue growing and will probably become the largest and fastest source of data on bee distributions and phenology.

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Where We Have Sampled

Over 50,000 bee observations have been documented in Vermont

The Vermont Wild Bee Survey made a concerted effort to visit the full spectrum of bee habitats. At least 100 species have been recorded in each biophysical region and at least one record exists for nearly every town in the state. However, sampling effort was not uniform across the state. Recent sampling has concentrated around population centers in Chittenden and Washington counties, while historical collecting was geographically biased by a small number of prolific collectors in places like East Dorset, Middlebury, and Castleton. In recent years, spatially explicit sampling has been done statewide for Bumble Bees and across Chittenden County for other bee genera.

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Data Sharing

50,000+ Vermont bee records are available in the Vermont Atlas of Life Data Explorer

We have transformed historical museum collections and all of our modern surveys into digital datasets that are open and freely available online. Nearly 60,000 Vermont bee records are now available from the Vermont Atlas of Life Data Explorer. We are continuing to build data exploration products to provide easier access to Vermont biodiversity data. bees

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Natural History


Not all bee species are alike. Even within a single genus, social structure, phenology, nesting locations, and diet can vary widely. Some species are active as adults for less than a month, spending most of the year as larvae or pupae in a nest. Others, however, overwinter as adults are active from April through October, with multiple generations in one summer. Understanding each species' natural history can reveal important information that is necessary for conservation action to succeed.

Nesting is a crucial part of bees' annual cycle that remains woefully understudied. While broad nesting habits are known or can be inferred for most species, little is known about the specific nesting requirements for most species. Bare, loose soil and aboveground cavities are the two most common nest sites used by the majority of species. Additionally, thick leaf litter and rotten logs are important overwintering habitats for a number of species. Learn more about habitat management for nesting and overwintering sites from the Xerces Society.

Detailed Species accounts for all 350+ species will be available soon!

As part of the state bee checklist that will be published next year, we are developing individual species accounts for each species. These will provide up to date information on species distributions, flower preferences, phenology, habitat needs, and the effect of sampling method based on over 50,0000 occurrence records.

Below are a few examples from the forthcoming species accounts.

Ligated Furrow Bee (Halictus ligatus) phenology


Cherry Miner (Andrena pruni) distribution


Elevation profile of New England Longhorn (Melissodes illatus) records in black, with the elevation profile of Vermont (gray).

New England Longhorn Elevation Profile

Capture methods for the Bicolored Striped-Sweat bee (Agapostemon virescens) shown as the black dot, compared to all other species (gray dots).

Floral preferences of Pickerelweed Shortface (Dufourea novaeangliae) derived from iNaturalist observations.
Pickerelweed shortface

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Some specialized bees only collect pollen from a single plant species

Over 20,000 observation records of bee-plant interactions revealed that 225 bee species visited at least 438 different plant species in 92 families. These interactions provide important information about diet preferences for bees, which in turn is useful for designing management plans and other conservation actions.

Many bee species are specialists and only feed their offspring pollen from a single genus or species of plant. Even specialists will occasionally visit other flowers to feed on nectar. On the other hand, generalists use pollen from an assortment of unrelated plant species. For example, Common Eastern Bumble Bee (Bombus impatiens), has been associated with 159 different plant genera in Vermont alone.

Use the interactive figure to explore the bee-flower interaction data. Plant families with ≥10 bee observations are shown across the bottom and Bee genus is shown on the left. The colors represent the number of observations with darker colors indicating more observations. Click and enlarge areas on the figure to explore more details. Click on a Bee genus or a plant family to highlight a row or column, respectively. Mouse over a cell to see the number of observations.

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Bees in Agriculture

174 bee species have been recorded visiting food crops within the state


The pollination services that our agricultural systems rely on come from an incredible variety of wild bees. More than 10% of the bee records known from the state were collected off plants that have at least some commercial food value. The plants included in this figure range from Sugar Maples to potatoes, though much of the agricultural focus on pollination revolves around fruits, many of which are dependent on insect pollination to produce a crop. Much of the Vermont data on agricultural pollination comes from a University of Vermont study study on blueberries and raspberries that showed wild bee pollination improved not only the quantity but also the quality of crops.

Farmers and honey bees aren’t the only ones that benefit from these interactions - of the top 20 wild bees found on crops, only one (Wilke's Miner) is non-native. Several crops, including blueberries, sunflowers, squash, tomatillos, and ground cherries are the hosts of specialist bees - including two watchlist species!

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Regional Context

At least 8 species have been recorded in Vermont that are not known to occur anywhere else in New England

Investigations of some of the bee fauna of all three neighboring states were recently completed and one is in progress for Quebec. Yet only Massachusetts surveyed the entire bee fauna. About 125 species are known from New England that haven’t yet been found in Vermont. Many of these are southern and coastal species and unlikely to occur here, but there may be 30 to 50 of those species that could occur here.

As the northwestern most state in New England, Vermont has some more western species such as the Texas Mason (Osmia texana), Rugose-fronted Resin Bee (Megachile rugifrons), and the Simple Longhorn-Cuckoo (Triepeolus simplex) not found elsewhere in the region.

Despite targeted survey efforts in montane and boreal biophysical regions, records of more northern boreal species are few. The cooler areas of the state do have a relatively distinct bee community, characterized by several species including the Cinquefoil Masked Bee (Hylaeus basalis), White-fronted Small-Mason (Hoplitis albifrons), and the Proximal Mason (Osmia proxima) that are uncommon to rare south of the conifer-hardwood transition zone.

Epeolus minimus

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