Dogs and bees generally don’t play well together. We’ve all seen a poor pup with a swollen nose after a run-in with a buzzing bee. But for Wisconsin’s bumble bees, a dog might just be their new best friend!

Thanks to the incredible support from the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin’s Wisconsin Pollinator Protection Fund, Midwest Conservation Dogs, Inc. (MCDI) has begun training our professional detection dogs to locate bumble bee nests. 

Scent detection by MCDI.

Bumble Bees in Wisconsin

There are 250 species of bumble bees worldwide, with 46 species found throughout the United States. Wisconsin is home to 20 species of bumble bees, including the federally endangered rusty patched bumble bee. These fuzzy, buzzing teddy bears of the sky are so fun to watch. We don’t know about you, but bumble bees just make us smile.

Aside from being cute, they are admirable creatures. Hard-working and efficient pollinators, bumble bees are responsible for assisting pollination of a variety of Wisconsin crops, such as apples, berries, squashes, tomatoes, and alfalfa. Thanks to their ability to buzz pollinate (where they literally shiver their flight muscles), their hairy bodies can dislodge an incredible amount of pollen from each flower.

 

Bumble bee by MCDI.

How Conservation Dogs Can Help Bumble Bees

While a big buzzing bumble bee isn’t hard to spot, researchers are still a bit stumped about bumble bee nesting behavior and ideal nesting habitat.

Bumble bees are opportunistic nesters, utilizing spaces other animals have created, such as mouse and bird nests, or hollowed out logs and cavities. They also burrow into loose soil and debris, like garden mulch or grass clumps. With so many locations a bumble bee nest could be, surveys can be quite difficult. That is where MCDI comes in! A trained detection dog can locate out-of-sight nests without disturbing them, using their incredible sense of smell! 

K9 Betty White working through training to detect bumble bee nests. Photo by Lindsay Hayward

Our goal is to collaborate with researchers and various organizations throughout the Midwest, using this innovative data collection method to assist conservation. Adding any info to the collective information pool will help develop species habitat associations, trends in nesting preferences, and other important research. The trained MCDI teams will survey alongside our partnering organizations, sniffing out the homes of our buzzing friends.

Executive Director and Lead Handler, Laura Holder, with K9 Ernie. Photo by Lindsay Hayward

If identifying a bumble bee buzzing around a garden sounds like an enjoyable pastime for you, we highly recommend checking out the Bumble Bee Brigade to learn how you can become involved. The data collected through citizen science observations is incredibly valuable.

MCDI would love your help too! As our organization and Pollinator Program continue to grow, there will be opportunities for public involvement. We would love for you to connect with us on social media and keep in touch about our bumble bee friends.

By Amy Wagnitz, Director of Programs at MCDI

About Us

Midwest Conservation Dogs, Inc is a Milwaukee-based nonprofit that works throughout the Midwest. Our organization aids in various conservation efforts by deploying professional scent detection dog/handler teams. Learn more at our website and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube. 

Neotropical Flyways

The Neotropical Flyways Project is studying bird migration to help us understand the needs of migratory birds in their winter habitat.

2022 Birdathon Report

Whoop whoop! The 2022 Great Wisconsin Birdathon Report is here. 56 teams raised $117,000 during our 10th season of birding for a cause.

Restoring Inch Lake

Efforts are underway to protect one of Northern Wisconsin’s gems: Inch Lake State Natural Area.

Protecting Rush Creek from Climate Change

Climate Change Adaptation in Wisconsin: The first grassland climate change adaptation project in our state is now underway at Rush Creek State Natural Area.

Conservation Planning in the Driftless Area

A group of conservation partners in Wisconsin’s Driftless Area are coming together to make a plan. Together, they’re determining the top priorities for protecting the region’s unique features and biodiversity.

Welcoming the 2022 Diversity in Conservation Internship Cohort

The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin welcomes the 2022 cohort of the Diversity in Conservation Internship program.

2021 C.D. Besadny Conservation Fund Awarded to 14 Organizations Across Wisconsin

The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin awarded the C.D. Besadny Conservation Fund to 14 organizations across Wisconsin working to support grassroots conservation and education projects.

Sweet, sweet habitat: Restoring the Sugar River Wetlands

Thanks to a grant from the Alliant Energy Foundation, we were able to create and restore habitat for pollinators and wildlife species at the Sugar River Wetlands State Natural Area

The Kirtland’s warbler is here to stay

There is now permanent funding to support Kirtland’s warbler conservation efforts in Wisconsin! The American Bird Conservancy Kirtland’s Warbler Fund, held by the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, was established to provide a sustainable funding source for conservation efforts for the state-endangered Kirtland’s warbler in Wisconsin.

Recovering America’s Wildlife Act: A Once in a Generation Opportunity

This bipartisan federal legislation, if passed, would usher in a golden age for conservation for this generation.