All abuzz: USU scientist discovers 2 bee species

LOGAN, Utah (AP) — Utah State University scientists are buzzing over the recent discovery of two unique bee species. Biologist and postdoctoral fellow David Tanner discovered the insects in the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Tanner and two graduate students were collecting data for a study on the relationship between pollinators and rare desert plants when they stumbled on the discovery. Both of the new species are distinct forms of the genus Perdita, Tanner said. The species have not yet been named, but Tanner hopes to have a hand in the process along with Terry Griswold, a research entomologist and adjunct assistant professor in USU’s biology department. A lab operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Logan has confirmed the find. Stumbling onto a species that was new to science was a thrill that Tanner said “made him feel like a child again.” The discovery wasn’t completely unexpected. Desert areas like Ash Meadows have some of greatest biodiversity of bees in the world, Tanner said. The correlation isn’t fully understood by scientists, but could be related to the dry desert soils, he said. Tanner said the refuge could hold other unknown species. Bee populations, including honeybees and wild species, are in decline worldwide. And while there is no complete explanation for the losses, Tanner said climate change and the loss of habitat are contributing factors. “It’s doubtful that any other species could replace honeybees, but it would be beneficial to have alternative, supplemental pollinators,” he said. “Further study is needed to determine which species could serve in this role and that’s one reason why identification and conservation of all bees is important.”

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