SFA buzzing with bee research study in East Texas

Plant a flower, save a bee
Published: Aug. 5, 2022 at 5:56 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 5, 2022 at 6:37 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - With the new semester at Stephen F. Austin University beginning in just a few weeks, the campus is buzzing in more ways than one. The SFA Biology Department is hard at work on bee research in East Texas.

SFA, Sam Houston State University and the Texas Forest Service are out in 74 counties to research the status of bees from the Red River in the north all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico.

“The state is really interested in figuring out the occurrence of these bees throughout that huge region,” said Daniel Bennett, associate professor at SFA and head entomologist of the project.

The state is funding the $500,000 project to fill gaps in research that hasn’t been done in the region since the 1950s. Since then, bee populations have been on the decline.

The reason for this decrease is hard to pin down, but Bennett suggested a few possible culprits.

“Probably climate change, pesticides, and perhaps overuse of herbicides,” Bennett said. He also mentioned common practices in our everyday lives, like mowing the lawn, can hurt bees by taking away their food source.

The SFA project will take five years, with the first three being out in the field. Researchers will try to find out more about bee populations using non-lethal means, like taking pictures to compare roadsides to pastures and natural areas.

Other means of observation include trapping, but this process is lethal for the bees, so the group will only begin doing this after May, when queens have already started their hives. This limits the chances of killing the important queens.

The study will give more knowledge about what humans are doing to affect the bees in different areas, according to Bennett, all while training SFA students.

“A big portion of this is training the next generation of biologists to do work in the field and gathering data that’s meaningful and helpful in how we manage out natural resources,” Bennett said.

If you’re interested in helping keep the American bumble bee thriving, it can be as simple as planting some flowers in your yard or letting a portion of your yard become overgrown with weeds, which are a great food source for bees.

To learn more about what to plant for bees, check out this article by Texas A&M AgriLife.

Copyright 2022 KTRE. All rights reserved.