Contact: Susan Sherman
Shenandoah National Park Trust

What the Buzz is Going on?

If you have been in Shenandoah National Park along Skyline Drive the last few weeks, you might be curious about signs and colored plastic bowls with insects floating in them at Dickey Ridge, Big Meadows, or several overlooks through out the Park. Do not disturb them! These are all part of an inaugural research grant at Shenandoah National Park, funded by generous donations to the Shenandoah National Park Trust, and awarded to Dr. Jessica Rykken.

Dr. Rykken, an Associate with the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University, is gathering information on pollinator diversity, distribution and phenology in Shenandoah National Park. Rykken envisions this project as an opportunity to increase awareness among park employees and visitors to the importance of a healthy and diverse pollinator population.

“While many national parks have biological inventory information on their native plants and animals, there is often little information collected on invertebrates,” explained Dr. Rykken. “This research will provide data on bees and hoverflies or flower flies that exist in Shenandoah. There are close to 4,000 different species of bees known in North America, north of Mexico, to include one species of honey bee and 46 species of bumble bees. I would not be surprised to find 150 or more species in the park. Most people are familiar with honey bees and bumble bees, but there are thousands more kinds of bees!”

Spending a total of 6 weeks on-site in Shenandoah, Rykken selected three distinct time periods spanning May to September to include blossom time for a variety of host wildflowers across the park. A transect of 30 traps, placed 5 meters apart are set up in 6 different location throughout Shenandoah. At each site, the catch is collected 6-8 hours later, and species inventoried to begin the process of gathering information on pollinator diversity and distribution. This collection and inventory process will be ongoing all summer.

Recognizing the importance of community collaboration and public outreach, Rykken recruited the help of 7 Virginia Master Naturalist volunteers, and the assistance of retired scientist, Ken Kinsgsley. This team of volunteers is gathering specimens in traps distributed across 100 miles of property along the Skyline Drive in sunny open meadow areas, along overlooks, and at some rocky outcroppings.

The end-product of this project will be a baseline inventory of pollinator species and their distribution that Shenandoah could use in future research and monitoring efforts as the national park service carries out their mission to preserve and protect natural resources within Shenandoah.

“I think that we all know that all of our native pollinators—not just honeybees – are facing all source of challenges: pesticides, parasite, pathogens, and habitat decline. The first step is monitoring what’s there, and then one can begin to get the picture of the state of pollinators over time,” said Dr. Rykken.

Dr. Rykken has conducted research in other national parks, including the Boston Harbor Islands, Denali, Olympic, North Cascades National Parks, and at the George Washington Birthplace National Monument. In addition, she participated in a large collaborative project that included 48 national parks to study pollinators in alpine habitats and beaches habitats.

“The Shenandoah National Park Trust is proud to provide funding for this inaugural Research Grant Program in Shenandoah National Park,” says Susan Sherman, President of the Trust. “In addition to providing remarkable recreational opportunities for visitors, Shenandoah National Park is also a living laboratory, with an important role to play in the broader scientific community.” Visit to learn more about the Trust’s additional programs.

Visit to learn more about the Trust’s additional programs.