Thunder Bay

Dryden woman one of the 'queen bees' on a nature app focused on native bees

A woman from Dryden has made a name for herself on an app popular with nature lovers across the country. Ann Puddicombe has no formal scientific training, but she has become one of the top three contributors to Bumble Bee Watch in Canada.

Ann Puddicombe is one of the top 3 contributors to Bumble Bee watch Canada

The bumble bee is native to North America, but is a species that is at risk due to pesticides and habitat loss. (Supplied by Ann Puddicombe)

A woman from Dryden has made a name for herself on an app popular with nature lovers across the country.

Ann Puddicombe has no formal scientific training, but she has become one of the top three contributors to Bumble Bee Watch in Canada.

The citizen science she has provided is causing quite a buzz among bee researchers.

Puddicombe said she had had a passion for bees since she was a little girl, and being part of the Bumble Bee Watch community has made her appreciate northwestern Ontario's environment.

"Something pretty important that I didn't realize is that we have some bumble bees species here that seem to be a little healthier than the other parts of Ontario," she said. "There [are] the bees [that] haven't been seen in a long time. Or they are not seen nearly as frequently."

Puddicombe said she even identified a bee that had not been seen in other parts of Ontario in a decade.

Ann Puddicombe, of Dryden, Ont., has become one of the top three contributors to Bumble Bee Watch in Canada. (Supplied by Ann Puddicombe)

As a young woman, Puddicombe was already interested in bees.

Her childhood home had a bee hive in the walls, and she remembers being fascinated by them.

Then, about six years ago, she found a bumble bee nest in her camper. She wanted to learn what kind of bees they were, and her activity as a chronicler of all things bumble bees began.

"I was trying to look up the difference, and trying to find someone who would help me remove bumble bees safely," she said. "I didn't want to exterminate them."

 Puddicombe admits that she spends a lot of time seeking out bumblebees to photograph for the app. She uses a butterfly net to capture them, or occasionally puts a jar over them.

She is very careful not to injure the bumble bees she captures as she has grown to have quite an affinity for them.

This tri-coloured bumble bee was photographed in a portion of Ann Puddicomb's lawn she doesn't mow. Bumble bees are known to be pollinators. (Supplied by Ann Puddicombe)

 "A lot of people do not realize there is a big difference between bumble bees and honey bees as the bumble bees are native to North America," said Puddicombe. "Honey bees aren't native and are considered part of the agricultural chain."

Puddicombe's interest in documenting bumble bees around the Dryden area has lead her to become one of the Bumble Bee watch apps primary posters.

She said she posts a picture about once a day in the summer, depending on what she finds.

However, Puddicombe said being part of Bumble Bee Watch does not require users be that active.

"I do it just for the fun of it," said Puddicombe. "You could submit one pic or 600, whatever you enjoy. But everywhere I go if I see a bumble bee, I will quickly whip out my camera...wherever I can fit in a few minutes to hunt down a bumble bee, I will."

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