Native Bees of Minnesota's Grasslands and Forests

image of cover of Minnesota Conservation Volunteer featuring article on native bee surveys

There are approximately 400 native bee species in Minnesota. The exact number is unknown because the most recent state species list was published in 1919. Additionally, less than 2% of Minnesota's prairie habitat remains today. It's important to record what bee species live in Minnesota and which habitats they prefer so we can practice effective pollinator conservation. To support this research, the Minnesota Biological Survey applied to the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources for a grant from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. This project began July 1, 2014.

The Wild Bees Surveys in Prairie-Grassland Habitats project has produced a preliminary state species list of Minnesota bees. Species are expected to be added or removed as surveys are completed and specimen identifications are confirmed.


Minnesota entomologist Crystal Boyd tells about pan trapping in this instructional video. Entomologists will also collect bees using sweep nets and blue vane traps when possible.

The Minnesota Conservation Volunteer recently published (Jul/Aug 2015 issue) a feature article on the Minnesota Biological Survey's grassland bee surveys.

LCCMR Project ENRTF ID: 006-A

Wild Bee Surveys in Prairie-Grassland Habitats

Why are wild bees important?

Wild bees provide vital pollination services and are an integral component of species diversity in prairie-grasslands. The Minnesota Prairie Conservation Plan seeks to restore functioning prairie systems with stable or increasing native plant diversity. Wild bee pollinators play a major role in prairie restoration efforts. Enhanced prairie condition provides food and cover for wildlife, prevents soil erosion, and promotes animal and plant diversity.

Are our wild bees in peril?

The health of our wild bee population is uncertain. We know very little about the diversity and distribution of wild bees in Minnesota. Research elsewhere suggests that wild bees have suffered serious declines as habitat loss and pesticide use have accelerated. Successful enhancement of pollinator habitat depends on baseline data about our wild bees.

Project Objectives

  • Compile existing information about wild bees in Minnesota
  • Conduct surveys of wild bees on native prairies in Minnesota
  • Compare wild bee fauna on native versus restored prairie-grasslands

Activity 1. Checklist of wild bees in Minnesota

  • Collect specimen data on Minnesota wild bees from museums
  • Compile literature and reports on wild bees in Minnesota
  • Develop a wild bee database
  • Prepare a checklist of wild bees in Minnesota

Activity 2. Wild bees associated with native prairie

  • Conduct surveys of wild bees in high-quality native prairie sites identified by the Minnesota Biological Survey
  • Compare wild bee diversity with native plant species diversity
  • Incorporate new findings into the Minnesota wild bee database

Activity 3. Comparison of wild bee fauna in prairie-grasslands

  • Compare wild bee fauna between native prairie and restored prairie-grasslands
  • Associate wild bee diversity with flowering resources
  • Recommend best management practices to enhance pollinator habitat

Field staff with the Minnesota Biological Survey will set pan traps along transects at sites across the Prairie Parkland Province and the Tallgrass Aspen Parklands Province. The pan traps are yellow, blue, or white cups that look like flowers to pollinators. The cups are filled with soapy water, and field staff return 24 hours later to retrieve the specimens that were trapped in the water.

Please visit the Minnesota Biological Survey's News from the Field 2014 page to learn more as this project takes shape.