Notes From The Field: Another Early-ish Spring

I am back at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory for Field Season 2016. This spring, summer, and autumn I will be collecting data for David Inouye’s impressive long term study of flowering abundance and phenology, as well as for my own work on bumble bee communities and their floral resources. I really love field season!

Here are some notes so far. First flowering in David’s plots was on April 22 which ranks the sixth earliest since 1973 (last year was the second earliest). Spring beauty, Claytonia lanceolata (pictured below), was the first species to bloom. As is typical for early spring in the high mountains, the early flowers and field biologists experienced some frost and snow.

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I saw my first bumble bee queen on April 21, when there were very few flowers in the landscape. My impression from this spring is that the earliest queens are out from their winter hibernation before there are many flowers for them to feed on. The spring queens continually impress me. I wonder how long they can survive on stored energy before needing to feed? Do these early queens go on to produce successful colonies (little families)? Even when there are few flowers in the landscape, the queens seem really good at finding them, like this Bombus bifarius who found a little jackpot of dwarf bluebells (Mertensia fusiformis). So far I have seen these bumble bee species: Bombus bifarius, B. appositus, B. fervidus, and B. occidentalis.

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I am very curious about what the rest of the spring and summer will bring!

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