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Source: University of California, Riverside news release

Though regional studies have tracked the decline of native bees, there hasn't been a coordinated nationwide effort to monitor these pollinators - until now.

UC Riverside entomologist Hollis Woodard and bee researchers at 11 other institutions are leading the charge to gather the kind of data that will help governments and land managers justify new protective regulations.

"There's been a push to do this in many of the states, and even regionally, but there's been no effort yet to coordinate across all these efforts," Woodard said. "Doing so will give us much better data about what conservation efforts are helping, and what we as a nation can do to improve."

In a new Biological Conservation paper, Woodard and her colleagues lay out the need for this alliance of researchers, environmental organizations and federal entities including the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management.

These reasons include the fact that wild bees contribute significantly to the success of the world's most nutritious and economically valuable crops, their critical role in pollinating threatened plant species, and their declining health.

Supported by a $380,000 grant from the US Department of Agriculture, anyone with the time and inclination can join this first-of-its-kind monitoring network. Training opportunities will be available to help people learn how to go outside and look for bees in a standardized way.

"We are planning to give people the tools to empower them," Woodard said.

The decline of honeybees, which are not native to the U.S., has been widely reported. However, fewer reports have focused on the health of native bees, including bumblebees, which are critical for pollinating some of our favorite foods including tomatoes, blueberries, peppers and potatoes.

"It's exciting that we'll be capitalizing on a lot of momentum that's been building to monitor native bees," Woodard said. "It's a new direction for my lab, for me, and for the country, thinking about working together and cooperating in this way."

Visit the network's website for more information on the project or to learn how to get involved.

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