Netting a wild bee baseline for Montana

Entomologists exult when the buzz is good.

And so it was on the crisp morning of July 12.

Wildflowers galore graced the subalpine meadows along the Gravelly Range Road. Pollinators flitted or rocketed from flower to flower. A steady breeze discouraged all but the most determined mosquitoes.

If a person had felt compelled to twirl like Julie Andrews in the Alps, as was Maria’s cinematic habit, they would have witnessed mountain vistas in all directions.  

“I feel like I’m in ‘The Sound of Music,’” said a smiling Casey Delphia, an entomologist and research scientist with Montana State University.

Yet the only music along this high-elevation plateau issued from birds and bees and the rustle of wind. Entomologists, botanists and support staff bailed from pickups and cars. They toted bowl traps, kill tubes, Blue Vane traps and aerial nets.

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Entomology is the scientific study of insects.

Their mission was to collect wild bees, ideally of varied species. It was part of an effort to establish a more comprehensive inventory of the insects in Montana. How many species of bees native to the state are buzzing around, nesting in social colonies like bumble bees,

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