Although the “summer of fun” brought to you by our 2013 Bio-Blitz seems far in the past, the “hard work” of this large project is now only just beginning. It is safe to assume that 10s of thousands of insects were collected this summer by our four teams of university students and RSM researchers, and it will take many years to fully process all of it.

Most of the collected insect specimens will be sorted, identified, and incorporated into the RSM’s insect collection where it will be available for scientific studies for years to come. As such, the Collections Registrar at the RSM will form a vital link to the collection and researchers outside of the museum. However, some of the material will be sent directly to colleagues at other institutions, to be used in their research projects; maybe they will describe species new to science!

This is not to say that there were not any important discoveries made already. At this time in 2012 there were 190 bee species known to be in Saskatchewan, and now we have 221 confirmed species. That is 31 new species records for bees in the province from one summer of collecting!

Wood Mountain Regional Park Cypress Hills Provincial Park Birch Hills

Several of these discoveries were made in some beautiful and interesting parts of the province. In August, 2013, a collecting trip to Wood Mountain Regional Park yielded two bee species that in Canada were previously only known from Ontario and Quebec. Hylaeus sparsus and Stelis permaculata are two small black bees with yellow markings. Both species nest in hollow twigs, although the Stelis is a cleptoparasite or cuckoo bee, laying its eggs in the nest of other bees. This is interesting as it seems that Wood Mountain Regional Park may be an “island” in the prairies, offering a habitat more similar to the forests of the east than the surrounding grasslands. Populations of these bees may have persisted here for a very long time.

Hylaeus sparsus  
Please click images to enlarge   

Other nice records come from Cypress Hills Provincial Park. Similar to the Wood Mountain site, the Cypress Hills provide an island in the prairies, though this time the new records are of species typically found much further west in Canada. Eucera frater and Habropoda cineraria were both found in the Cypress Hills, though previously only known in Canada from British Columbia. 

Eucera frater   Habropoda cineraria
Please click images to enlarge   

Similarly, another species previously only known in Canada from British Columbia is Sphecodes pecosensis, which is another cuckoo bee. A few specimens of this bee were collected in Birch Hills within a Haskap (Blue Honeysuckle) orchard.

Sphecodes pecosensis
 Please click image to enlarge

These records may be just the start of many exciting discoveries resulting from our Bio-Blitz, leading us to suspect there is still much about the insect fauna of Saskatchewan we do not know yet. It is a great time to be in this province!