British Columbia

Citizen scientists busy as bees surveying pollinator populations in Kamloops

Amateur entomologists in Kamloops are participating in a public pollinator survey to identify the different types of organisms responsible for helping local plants reproduce.

Study will help track trends in insect populations

The honeybee is just one type of pollinating insect that helps plants reproduce. Flies, wasps and beetles also play key roles. (Getty Images)

The iridescent green mining bee excels at camouflage and often goes unnoticed by the casual observer, but some citizen scientists in Kamloops are becoming experts at recognizing the little insect.

The amateur entomologists are all participating in a public pollinator survey that aims to collect data on the different types of organisms responsible for helping the plants in the B.C. city to reproduce.

"Once you get an eye for it, you start to notice this whole other world, in your backyard and in the park, of pollinators everywhere," said Erin Udal, a citizen science trainer and pollinator educator.

She was in town this weekend on the invitation of the Thompson Shuswap Master Gardeners Association to train volunteers to recognize the various species of flying insects that visit the city.

While many people imagine honeybees when they think of pollinators, Udal points out that flies, beetles, wasps and butterflies also play important ecological roles.

"Pollinators are so economically important to people, as well as the natural ecosystems that they serve," she said.

"I think there's a lack of information on what's happening to bees in cities or urban areas. This kind of program allows the citizens of those areas to become stewards of figuring out what's going on."

Kamloops became B.C.'s first designated "Bee City" earlier this year, pledging to plant bee-friendly public gardens in an attempt to address a worldwide decline in pollinator populations.

Crucial baseline

Surveys of the native pollinators provide a crucial baseline to measure changes in the ecosystem, according to researcher Lincoln Best.

"We have almost no historical data on native pollinators in the Thompson here," he said. "If we have no historical data, it's difficult to know if there's been any changes."

And getting the public involved provides a great opportunity to bring people into the outdoors to learn about ecology firsthand.

"I think it's a great educational tool," said Elaine Sedgman, education coordinator for the master gardeners. "People are really, really excited about this."

After the weekend training session at Thompson Rivers University, the 20 volunteers will conduct two surveys this summer at Kenna Cartwright Park and the B.C. Wildlife Park.

Listen to the segment on Daybreak Kamloops: