Pollinator Conservation:  West Virginia’s Native Bees

Pollinator Conservation: West Virginia’s Native Bees

Native Bees are Important to West Virginia

West Virginia’s native bees including bumble bees, mason bees, leaf-cutter bees, miner bees, and sweat bees are important to the pollination of most flowering trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants within the forests and fields of the Mountain State. Therefore, our native bees are important mechanisms for feeding West Virginia’s people and wildlife. West Virginia is rich with a diversity of habitats such as large river valleys, high-elevation mountains, forests, fields, etc. that are home to a diversity of flowering plants that provide pollen and nectar for a diversity of native bees. There has been a rapid decline of bumble bee species (Bombus spp.) throughout much of North America, including some that were once common in West Virginia. This has created the need for inventories to determine the current status of all native bee species. The use of published bee research, museum specimens, and historical records coupled with field data is needed to develop a list and determine the status of West Virginia’s native bees.

Top left: Megachile latimanus;  Bottom left: Halictus ligatus;  Center: Augochloropsis metallic; Top right: Coelioxys sayi;  Bottom Right: Osmia texana

Surveying West Virginia’s Native Bees

In 2018, AllStar Ecology began coordinating with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to document West Virginia’s native bees. The WVDNR, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service (USFS), West Virginia State Parks, and private landowners granted permission for AllStar Ecology personnel to survey native bees on lands under their ownership and management. Four AllStar Ecology Environmental Scientists conducted 242 native bee surveys using hand nets within 45 of the 55 West Virginia counties that resulted in the collection of 6,377 bees. These surveys identified 124 species including a new location of the rusty-patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis), which is currently on the USFWS’s Endangered Species List (List). The male was discovered in Tucker County and with a rare color pattern. The yellow-banded bumble bee (Bombus terricola), a candidate species to be placed on the List was found at eight locations, representing the first records of this species in West Virginia since 1979. Also found were 16 species of specialist bees, which are species that only collect pollen and nectar from a specific plant species or plant group.  Four species of the located specialist bees are considered to be rare. Three species that were not previously recorded in West Virginia were discovered, including a cuckoo bee (Nomada graenicheri), leaf-cutter bee (Heriades leaviti), and mining bee (Andrena illinoiensis) in Ritchie, Mingo, and Lewis Counties, respectively. This initial data is useful in determining which bee species are common and help to determine the distributions of rare, threatened, and endangered bee species. Future surveys will likely discover new species records for the state and additional locations of rare, threatened, and endangered native bee species.  Click here to view the 2018 rusty-patched bumble bee collected in Tucker County, WV along with other WV native bees on the USGS Native Bee Monitoring and Inventory Lab’s Flickr page.

Bombus affinis                                        Bombus terricola                                          Heriades leavitti

West Virginia, a Mountain Refuge

The rusty-patched bumble bee found in 2018 is the second to be documented within West Virginia since the 1990’s. This is encouraging that there are additional areas where the species is finding refuge within the Mountain State. The West Virginia locations, along with locations found in western Virginia over the last few years, are the only locations where the rusty-patched bumble bee is being found east of Illinois. The USFWS has a rusty-patched bumble bee map that shows the areas where the species has been found in recent years.   Click here to view USFWS map.

The rediscovery of yellow-banded bumble bees in WV is also encouraging. All eight locations where yellow-banded bumble bees were recorded are within the USFS Monongahela National Forest and occur in high-elevation habitats, averaging close to 4,000 feet above sea level.

Native Bee Pollinator Awareness

With the importance of native bees to the health and well-being of West Virginia’s people and wildlife, an effort is being made by AllStar to share the data and knowledge gained from these surveys with scientists and the general public. Mark Hepner is leading this effort and has presented about West Virginia’s native bees to community groups and organizations, encouraging everyone to learn about our native bees and to provide habitat wherever possible. A key point of Mark’s message is the need to provide flowers, native flowers are best, throughout the spring, summer, and fall. This is something most West Virginian’s can provide for our native bees by mowing less frequently or not mowing certain areas to allow flowers to bloom. The more we can learn about West Virginia’s native bees, the better we can understand the role they play in pollinating our forests and fields to help keep our state Wild and Wonderful.

Halictus ligatus

Useful Native Bee Resources

  • Colla, S., L. Richardson, and P. Williams. 2011. Bubble Bees of the Eastern United States
  • Discover Life, https://www.discoverlife.org/20/q?search=Apoidea
  • The Very Handy Manual: How to Catch and Identify Bees and Manage a Collection. 2015.
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, WV Division of Natural Resources, and The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, 2012. West Virginia Pollinator Handbook. A Field Office Technical Guide Reference to management of pollinators and their habitats.
  • USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab | Flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/usgsbiml/
  • Williams P., Thorp, R., Richardson, L., and Colla, S. 2014. Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide. Princeton University Press.
  • Xerces Society of Invertebrate Conservation, http://www.xerces.org

References

  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, WV Division of Natural Resources, and The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, 2012. West Virginia Pollinator Handbook. A Field Office Technical Guide Reference to management of pollinators and their habitats.
  • Cameron S., J. D. Lozier, J. P. Strange, J. B. Koch, N. Cordes, L. F. Solter, and T. L. Griswold. 2011. Patterns of widespread decline in North American bumble bees. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108(2):662-667.
  • Evans E., R. Thorp, S. Jepsen, and S. H. Black. 2008. Status review of three formerly common species of bumble bee in the subgenus Bombus.
  • Fowler, J. Host plants for specialist bees of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States. http://jarrodfowler.com/host_plants.html
  • Fowler, J. and S. Droege. Specialist bees of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States. http://jarrodfowler.com/specialist_bees.html
  • McKinney M. Bee Natural History, Diversity, and Management in West Virginia. Dissertation submitted to the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Design at West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia 2016.
  • Schweitzer D. F., N. A. Capuano, B. E. Young, and S. R. Colla. 2012. Conservation and management of North American bumble bees. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia, and USDA Forest Service, Washington, D.C.
  • Williams P., Thorp, R., Richardson, L., and Colla, S. 2014. Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide. Princeton University Press.
  • Ascher, J. S. and J. Pickering. 2018. Discover Life bee species guide and world checklist Hymenoptera: Apoidae: Anthophila). http://www.discoveerlife.org/mp/20q?guide=Apoidae_species
  • The Very Handy Manual: How to Catch and Identify Bees and Manage a Collection. 2015.
  • USFWS Rusty-patched bumble bee webpage. https://www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/insects/rpbb/index.html
Surveying for Threatened & Endangered Crayfish of the Southern Coalfields

Surveying for Threatened & Endangered Crayfish of the Southern Coalfields

In 2016, two species of Appalachian crayfish, the Big Sandy Crayfish (Cambarus callainus) and the Guyandotte River Crayfish (C. veteranus) were awarded federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. Due to their limited range and degrading habitat, the Big Sandy Crayfish was designated as a threatened species and the Guyandotte River Crayfish was designated as an endangered species. These designations provide each species protections through United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) management and oversight of activities which may alter species distribution and/or habitat.

The Big Sandy Crayfish (C. callainus) was first observed in 1937 and is only known from the Big Sandy River watershed in eastern Kentucky, southwestern Virginia, and southern West Virginia. More specifically, it is only found in McDowell and Mingo Counties within West Virginia. The Big Sandy Crayfish is currently considered threatened because of its potential to become endangered if populations continue to decline in number and habitats continue to become limited.

Cambarus callainus

The Guyandotte River Crayfish (C. veteranus) is currently only known to occur in two streams of its historic range in Wyoming County, West Virginia. The species has a well-known population in Pinnacle Creek and a recently found population in Clear Fork. The Guyandotte River Crayfish is considered to be endangered because known populations are small and are isolated from each other. This makes the species vulnerable to die-offs as result of single pollution events and lack of genetic diversity.

Cambarus veteranus

Both species are habitat specialists, meaning they have specific habitat requirements for the establishment and success of their populations. Large slab boulders within swift moving creeks and streams are the preferred refugia for both species. Unfortunately, these habitats can become increasingly scarce as a result of increased sediments to streams such as sand and silt. In addition, historic industrial activities and poor infrastructure in the region have also resulted in water quality issues throughout each species’ historic range.

With habitat availability declining, these two-protected species are forced to compete with common native crayfish species for resources and refugia. Interspecies competition can further inhibit the likelihood of their success.

Crayfish Presence/Absence Surveys

AllStar Ecology has a team of aquatic biologists who conduct threatened and endangered crayfish surveys in the southern coalfields of West Virginia, Virginia, and beyond. With multiple staff members having passed identification and survey protocol testing, AllStar Ecology can deploy teams of aquatic biologists to conduct the necessary surveys.

Over the past two years, our biologists have conducted numerous presence/absence surveys in McDowell, Logan, and Wyoming Counties, West Virginia for bridge enhancement projects and utility lines. Due to the instream work associated with these projects, the surveys were necessary to avoid potential disturbance to endangered crayfish and their habitats.

Having previously worked with federal and state agencies on threatened and endangered crayfish surveys, AllStar has the experience and knowledge to develop survey plans and conduct the necessary surveys to fulfill the needs of your project. Learn more about all of our services by clicking here or contact us for more information.

 

Freshwater Mussel Surveys & Conservation for Dam Removals

Freshwater Mussel Surveys & Conservation for Dam Removals

Pre Dam Removal Mussel Surveys

Three low-head dams (West Milford, Highland and Two Lick Dams) on the West Fork River in Harrison County, West Virginia, were planned for removal by the Clarksburg Water Board with assistance from the United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS). These dams were constructed in the early 1900’s for flood control and drinking water supply but no longer served their purpose and were a hazard to recreation along the river.

In September 2015, AllStar Ecology staff led efforts to relocate all live freshwater mussels from the work areas downstream of each dam. In West Virginia, all freshwater mussel species are now of conservation concern due to severe declines in their populations. In fact, freshwater mussels are the most imperiled species across the United States. With assistance from the USFWS and the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR), a total of 116 freshwater mussels of eight species were collected and relocated outside of the dam work areas.


Dam Removal & Mussel Salvage

The demolition of the three dams occurred in the spring and summer of 2016. Each dam was demolished in increments so that water levels upstream receded gradually over time. This exposed 12.5 miles of river bank on the West Fork River home to freshwater mussels that were now stranded without water. AllStar Ecology, USFWS, WVDNR, and numerous other partners and volunteers used canoes with apple pickers and litter grabbers to collect stranded mussels. In total, 1,476 live freshwater mussels of eight species were relocated to newly exposed riffles within the West Fork River with help from 34 volunteers searching for a total of 646 hours.


Restoration & Future Goals

Removing the three dams opened a continuous 35 miles of river on the West Fork and returned 13.5 miles of lake type habitat to river type habitat. This will improve fish movement, sediment transport, and freshwater mussel populations and increase recreation opportunities. The project has also spurred the removal of tons of trash and litter from the areas and has lowered the cost of drinking water treatment for the City of Clarksburg.

The USFWS and its partners hope to continue river restoration on the West Fork River through additional dam removal and modifications. AllStar Ecology will continue to lead efforts to relocate freshwater mussels from work areas and along exposed banks.


The AllStar Difference

We develop mussel survey plans and conduct the necessary surveys to fulfill the needs of various industries, land managers and the scientific community. AllStar has performed hundreds of mussel surveys throughout West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania for industries including oil and gas, utilities, loading and dredging facilities, municipalities, non-profits, and government agencies, etc. to meet the needs of our clients. Learn more about our mussel services by clicking here or contact us for more information.

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Oil & Gas Awards: Consultancy of the Year

Oil & Gas Awards: Consultancy of the Year

The Oil & Gas Awards announced this year’s annual Northeast Oil & Gas Awards recipients in recognition of those companies who excel in the key areas of Health & Safety, Operational Excellence, Innovation, Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Stewardship.

The annual Northeast gala ceremony was held at The Westin Convention Center, Pittsburgh, PA, where hundreds of oil and gas executives gathered together to celebrate Operational Excellence, Innovations in technology, CSR, Health & Safety and Environmental Stewardship.



About the Oil & Gas Awards
 

The Oil & Gas Awards recognize the outstanding achievements made within the upstream and midstream sectors of the North American oil and gas industry. The Awards are a platform for the industry to demonstrate and celebrate the advances made in the key areas of environment, efficiency, innovation, corporate social responsibility and health and safety. The Awards show the industry’s motivation to develop by recognizing and rewarding the efforts of corporations and individuals. For more information about the Oil & Gas Awards, all regional awards and award categories can be reviewed on their website at www.oilandgasawards.com



2017 Winners:

Engineering Company of the Year – Pickering Associates

Water Management Company of the Year – Eureka Resources

Award for Excellence in Health & Safety – Deep Well Services

Consultancy of the Year – AllStar Ecology

Award for Excellence in Environmental Stewardship – Comtech Industries

Manufacturer of the Year – Infinity Tool Manufacturing

Construction Company of the Year – Minnesota Limited

New Technology Development of the Year – Fortis Energy Services

The Oil & Gas Financial Journal Transaction of the Year – Rice Energy

Kerr Pumps & FlowValve Award for Excellence in Well Completion – U.S. Well Services

E&P Company of the Year – EQT Corporation

Future Industry Leader – Zhenhua Rui

Midstream Company of the Year – MarkWest Energy Partners, L.P.

Industry Supplier of the Year –Total Equipment Company

Law Firm of the Year – Blank Rome LLP

Award for Excellence in Drilling – Eclipse Resources

Oilfield Services Company of the Year – McCutcheon Enterprises

Award for Excellence in Corporate Social Responsibility – Junior Achievement

General Industry Service Award – Well Master Corp

Lifetime Achievement Award – Lou D’Amico


AllStar Ecology

AllStar Ecology, a local West Virginia consulting company, humbly received the honor of Consultancy of the Year. AllStar Ecology is a specialty consulting firm focused on guiding their clients through the changing regulatory climate in regards to the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, and the National Historic Preservation Act.  They specialize in ecological and environment consulting and contracting, including surveying for federal and state protected species (bats, mussels, mammals, and plants),  completing and implementing conservation plans, as well as mitigation banking, restoration contracting, and wetland and stream permitting (404/401) including mitigation banking and restoration contracting.

Specific highlights for AllStar Ecology over the past year include manufacturing, installing, and monitoring over 300 artificial roosting structures to comply with the Endangered Species Act for endangered and threatened bat species in West Virginia.  These structures had a 42% occupancy rate and included eight (8) northern long-eared bat maternity colonies, a federally threatened species. This success demonstrates how meaningful conservation measures can provide companies with a known and USFWS preferred solution for tree clearing activities while limiting cost and off-site conservation measure requirements.

Moreover, in 2016, AllStar ecologists completed several freshwater mussel, and endangered plant species surveys required for oil and gas infrastructure development in West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.  Since its founding, AllStar Ecology has surveyed over 50,000 acres of land, and permitted over 1,200 infrastructure projects in the region.  They work directly with industry, as well as provide specialty as-needed support to engineering firms within the industry.

AllStar Ecology is proud to be locally owned and operated with a staff of 40 professionally trained environmental consultants, 60% of which are West Virginia University graduates.