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Arilus cristatus
Photograph by Sam Pickering
Arilus cristatus (Linne, 1763)
Wheel bug nails non-native bee

Bee Bowls

USGS Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Laboratory
Beltsville Agriculture Research Center

Quick Bee Survey Protocol

Sam Droege
301-497 5840
15 March, 2010

"How to" Videos for putting out:
Bee Bowls, Part 1

And then picking up and storing specimens at:
Bee Bowls, Part 2

The Bee Monitoring YouTube Station is:

Setting Out Bowls

  1. Put one heavy squirt of dish washing liquid in 1 gallon jug of water (Blue Dawn is the standard; others are fine as long as they are NOT citrus-based or scented).
  2. Place bowls level on the ground.
  3. Fill each bowl with soapy water about 3/4 or more full
  4. Bowls can be left out for the middle part of the day or for 24 hours (or longer, but water will evaporate in dry/windy climates).
  5. Set bowls out in transects with 30 - 15 bowls (30 is preferred) spaced about 5 meters apart alternating blue, yellow, and white
  6. Avoid putting bowls in any heavy shade as few to no bees will come to those bowls. This is true of the shade under trees or the shade of thick grass.
  7. There don't have to be flowers nearby to have bees come to bowls, as often there are bees scouting over flowerless areas and these individuals are highly attracted to bowls

Straining Bowls

  1. Strain insects from bowls by dumping water from bowls through the brine shrimp net
  2. After all bowls are strained, scoop out with a spoon or your fingers, put insects in whirlpak; fill enough to cover with alcohol. Any type of alcohol will do in a pinch. I usually pick up a small bottle at the pharmacy (it should be 70% or better). The best kind of alcohol is straight ethanol, but isopropyl will also work. Hardware store alcohol should be considered 100% alcohol and diluted by eye to 70%.
  3. Add in with whirlpak a contents label written IN DARK PENCIL on a HEAVY paper saying who collected, DATE (with month spelled out), location. It would be useful to show where you collected on a map, but not absolutely critical.
  4. Remove the air from the whirlpak with your fingers, then roll the top down to the level of the alcohol, bend the ends forward and TWIST the wires together. Tuck the ends of the wires in to the center of the bag so they don't poke other bags.
  5. Write down the time and location on another piece of paper so there is a log of what you have done.

Airplane Travel of Mailing Specimens in Whirlpaks

When traveling on a plane or mailing specimens, drain the alcohol out of the packs so the airline won't get upset about a lot of alcohol in transit. Put all the whirlpacks into a ziplock bag and then in another bag to make sure nothing leaks. You can also add a paper towel to the big ziplock to soak up any drips. DO NOT SHIP BAGS FULL OF ALCOHOL!


For those of you sending specimens to Sam Droege, you can mail all specimens to me at the address below in a padded envelope by regular mail. Be sure to put the specimens in several layers of zip locks so that nothing leaks out. Make sure there is only a small amount of alcohol and that the bags are rolled all the way down and tight. In other words, drain most of the alcohol out of the bags.

Many thanks.


Sam Droege
Room 124 Building 308
10300 Baltimore Avenue
Beltsville, MD 20705

Updated: 14 December, 2011
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