Three years ago, Friends of Sapelo volunteered to participate in a comparative survey and inventory of native and introduced bees occurring along the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina with an emphasis on the vulnerable Dune and Back Dune areas.
Under the direction of Sam Droege,Wildlife Biologist with the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, volunteers set up two transects, parallel to the ocean, in the dunes north and south of the pathway to Nanny Goat Beach. Twenty species were identified from the approximately 2000 specimens collected. A number of the species identified are found only in the dune ecosystems and would be extirpated if the dune system were to disappear.
DID THAT HAPPEN? Volunteers monitored the bees monthly, April – October in 2016 and 2017. The Friends saw a change in the number of bees after Hurricane Matthew washed away the first line of dunes on the south side of the walkway. Hurricane Irma changed the landscape completely by leveling the remaining dunes, north and south. With no vegetation left on the dunes the bees did not return in 2018.
WILL THEY COME BACK? We hope they will! In May 2019, volunteers set up three new bee surveying sites. Site One, north and south of Old Beach Road mirrors the dunes of the original sites off Nanny Goat Beach. To provide greater context Droege recommended setting up sites elsewhere on the island. Kenan Field and the Skeet Fields were selected as Sites 2 and 3. The first collection, at two of the three sites look promising with over 400 bees.
Bee surveying will continue through October 2019