Three Rivers Park District Puts Radios on Bees
Scientists are putting radio transmitters on bees to gather information about what bees do in the Three Rivers Park District.
The restored prairie of Crow-Hassan Park Reserve can give you a glimpse of what a Minnesota prairie should look like. The land is colorful and vibrant and full of wildflowers and wildlife.
“We want to make sure our prairie is healthy for all animals that live here.” John Moriarty, Three Rivers Park District.
Scientists with Three Rivers Park District are trying to find where the bees are. There are more than a dozen species that live in the parks, including the federally threatened Rusty Patch Bumblebee.
“If we can find out where they are nesting, we can find things we can do to improve nesting habitats for the bumblebees,” says John Moriarty, senior manager of wildlife. “We are trying to put very small radio transmitters on bumblebees. The reason why is to figure out what habitats the bumblebees use on the prairie.”
Three Rivers has tracked wildlife like deer, turtles and even snakes. But bees are tricky.
“It’s delicate and there really isn’t a playbook,” says Moriarty. “There’s not a YouTube video on how to put radios on bumblebees.”
The tiny transmitters that go on the back of the bees can weigh as much as the bees themselves.
But the bees can handle it.
“It’s quite a hefty load for her,” says Angela Grill, one of the wildlife technicians helping with the project. “At least with this worker, we know there is a mission. Their nest is right here in the park.”
Time is of the essence here. The radios transmit information for only a few days and only within a small range.
“If they get up and fly into a great wind, they might fly to a hill a few miles away,” explains Moriarty. “We might lose them.”
What happens next?
The information Three Rivers Park District learns from the bees could help future management of parks like Crow-Hassan.
“We are very good at planting flowers and getting lots of flowers out there, but what is it that bumblebees need or that butterflies need that is different than getting a lot of pretty flowers,” asks Moriarty. “We want to make sure our prairie is healthy for all animals that live here.”