Collecting bees in the desert

Image of blooming cactus.

I cannot wait to be back on the ground in Utah. This place is special. I am always amazed by how a space so open and vast can embrace you so closely with its colors, smells and sounds. If you really want to understand the desert, you have to move at a different pace and look at it with different eyes – just like learning to speak in a different language. Finding bees here requires you to move with that same pace and with the same eyes. I am counting down the days until we’re back at this.

Joe, however, has already been lucky enough to get out into the desert looking for bees. At the end of March, he, Lindsey and their family spent a weekend helping colleagues search for pollinators in an area right next to the Grand Canyon. Specifically, they were focused on pollinators visiting an endangered cactus (Pediocactus bradyi) that only grows on the cliffs overlooking this natural wonder.

Image of cliffs overlooking rapids.
Joe looking for cacti on the cliffs.
Image of person with net looking at cactus on the ground.
Lindsey waiting patiently for pollinators to visit a small blooming cactus.

Unfortunately, by the end of the trip, they hadn’t found any pollinators on the endangered cacti – which may have been the result of chilly weather blowing through. However, Joe did find a few bee species on other plants in the area. Interestingly, he only found males, which tend to emerge before the females.

Image of four different bee species.
Joe found males of four different bee species. Top row: Osmia, Andrena. Bottom row: Eucera, Anthophora

But this is exactly what it’s like to survey bees – or any species – in a specific area in short span of time: you’re never certain what you’re going to find, but it sure will be interesting. This is the same uncertainty and thrill we have waiting for us this spring.

The desert always moves in its own unique way, and I can’t wait to see what it will show us this time around.

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