In the future, pollinators along the Blue Ridge Parkway will find more wildflower habitats where they can thrive. Thanks to funding from Foundation donors, students from Appalachian State University and volunteers spent two summers surveying populations of bees in the park. The first survey was conducted before wildflower display areas were established on the Parkway, and the second after these areas were revived by National Park Service staff and volunteers who collected site-specific native seeds for planting.
The pollinator survey involved retrieving specimens from 60 collection sites, which yielded 9,000 specimens. Before the bees could be identified, the process involved washing, drying, sorting, pinning, and labeling all the specimens. In Virginia, 115 species of bees were found, while 128 species were collected in North Carolina.
In fact, two new species of bumblebees were found since a 2015 bumblebee inventory. The federally listed endangered species Bombus affinis, the rusty patched bumblebee, was found in Virginia. Both states yielded B. pensylvanicus, the American bumblebee, a vulnerable and threatened species.
To help foster this trove of pollinator biodiversity, the National Park Service is working to create additional pollinator sites within the park and train staff on educating visitors about the program. It all adds up to more bees, more beauty, and a more sustainable park.