Summer visitors to the park may have been curious about signs and colored plastic bowls with insects floating in them at Dickey Ridge, Big Meadows, or several overlooks through out the Park. These “artifacts were all part of an inaugural research grant at Shenandoah National Park, funded by generous donations to the Shenandoah National Park Trust, and awarded to Dr. Jessica Rykken.
Dr. Rykken, an Associate with the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University, worked during the summer months to gather information on pollinator diversity, distribution and phenology in Shenandoah National Park. Rykken envisions this project as an opportunity to increase awareness among park employees and visitors to the importance of a healthy and diverse pollinator population.
“While many national parks have biological inventory information on their native plants and animals, there is often little information collected on invertebrates,” explained Dr. Rykken. “This research will provide data on bees and hoverflies or flower flies that exist in Shenandoah. There are close to 4,000 different species of bees known in North America, north of Mexico, to include one species of honey bee and 46 species of bumble bees. There may be as many as 150 or more species in the park. Most people are familiar with honey bees and bumble bees, but there are thousands more kinds of bees!”
Spending a total of 6 weeks on-site in Shenandoah, Rykken selected three distinct time periods spanning May to September to include blossom time for a variety of host wildflowers across the park. A transect of 30 traps, placed 5 meters apart, were set up in 6 different location throughout Shenandoah. At each site, the catch was collected 6-8 hours later, and species inventoried to begin the process of gathering information on pollinator diversity and distribution. Dr. Rykken will be summarizing her findings in a written report to Shenandoah National Park.