Using iNaturalist to Investigate Our Bee Campus

Have you ever wondered what bees are found around NC State’s campus? Citizen science can give us a pretty good idea.

In 2021, NC State University was certified as a Bee Campus USA affiliate. This initiative by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation encourages campuses to make commitments to conserve native pollinators by increasing the abundance of native plants, providing nest sites, reducing the use of pesticides, and educating the community.

These efforts may already be paying off. Over 30 different species of bees have been photographed on campus and uploaded to iNaturalist, one of the largest online citizen science networks that maps biodiversity through uploaded observations. 

Here, you can view a map of all of the campus bee observation data from iNaturalist. This map was created by Ren Rooney, the 2023-2024 Bee Campus USA intern. Selecting each point reveals the uploaded picture of that bee, and each tab provides brief explanations about the various types of bees discovered on campus.

Carpenter bees are the most commonly identified bees on campus. This makes sense‚ÄĒthey are great at adapting to urban areas! The next most commonly observed were bumble bees, then honey bees, and then sweat bees. 

This project began with an iNaturalist BioBlitz competition that encouraged participants to take pictures of any bees they saw around campus and upload them to the app. The goals of this competition were to promote learning about how to participate in citizen science, encourage participants to notice bee activity around them and add to the overall bee distribution dataset. The winner, who uploaded the most submissions, got a t-shirt screen printed right here at the Wilson College of Textiles’ ZTE Dyeing and Finishing lab and local honey from the farmer’s market! 

You can participate in initiatives like these by uploading pictures of bees to the iNaturalist database. Join the NC State Bee Campus iNaturalist project page to add to this dataset at any time. Additional citizen science projects that emphasize bee conservation include the Ground Nesting Bee Project and the Bumble Bee Atlas. 

The next round of the¬†NCSU Campus Bee Competition¬†will begin on April 1 and run until Earth Day, April 22, 2024. Take pictures of any bees you see around campus! Simply upload the photos with the suggested identification or ‚ÄúBees: Epifamily Anthophila‚ÄĚ to classify your submission as a bee and automatically add it to the competition. Whoever submits the most entries will win a ‚Äúsweet‚ÄĚ prize!