Queen Quest: The search for overwintering bumble bees

How you can help researchers understand where bumble bees spend the cold months.

A bumble bee queen foraging on purple coneflower
A bumble bee queen foraging on purple coneflower. Photo by Jenna Walters, MSU.

Bumble bees are an important and well-known group of pollinating insects, but populations of some bumble bee species are declining across the globe, including those in Michigan. Many groups are developing efforts to help conserve these insects by planting attractive flowers, yet we know little about where bumble bees nest in the winter. Now there’s an effort to change that, and you can help.

A group of scientists have launched Queen Quest, a collaborative public science program to understand where queen bumble bees overwinter across North America. If you are interested in helping, just get a few friends together, develop a fun team name and go questing! This can be done in a few hours and could be in your garden, a park or anywhere you think there might be a nest.

The group wants to know where bumble bees are—and are not—found. Finding these nest sites will help conserve bumble bees by informing the development of improved conservation programs.

The Queen Quest website has all the information necessary to get involved, including literature resources, a step-by-step protocol and information on where to look. If you can’t do it this fall, your team could try in the spring once the snow is gone. Everyone is welcome to participate, so please help put Michigan on the Queen Quest map!


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