Forest fires are a boon to wild bees

Scientists hope their wild bee analysis will help policy makers and conservationists develop improved management strategies for vulnerable bee species.
By Brooks Hays  |  Aug. 8, 2017 at 2:57 PM
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Aug. 8 (UPI) -- New research shows wild bee populations thrive in the wake of a moderate to severe forest fire.

Over the last year, scientists at Oregon State University have been monitoring the behavior, health, abundance and diversity of wild bees living in areas affected by the 2013 Douglas Complex fire in southwest Oregon.

The analysis showed wild bees were more diverse and abundant among habitats that were moderately to severely burned by the wildfire. Bees were scarcer in places less affected by the wild fire.

"In low severity spots, if you weren't looking for the markers of fire, you wouldn't know that it had burned," Sara M. Galbraith, a post-doctoral researcher Oregon State, said in a news release. "The canopy is completely closed, and the trees are usually older. There isn't a lot of evidence of fire except for some blackened areas on some of the tree trunks."

The most severely burned portions of they habitat featured more open canopies and a larger array of native flowers.

Researchers trapped thousands of bees at 43 different forest locations using traps that reflect ultra-violet light in order to mimic a flower.

"The bees basically think it's a huge flower," said Galbraith. "Once they get inside the trap, they are unable to fly out because of the shape of the entrance."

Scientists hope their wild bee analysis will help policy makers and conservationists develop improved management strategies for vulnerable bee species. Oregon is home to more than 500 wild bee species.

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