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Extension > Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Education News > February 2017

Monday, February 27, 2017

Sharing the Spotlight: Native Bees

As spring nears, you may start to see headlines like "10 Amazing Facts About Bees!" or "How to Attract Bees to Your Garden."  These articles and the photos in them almost always refer to honey bees.  Although they are an important and charismatic part of our agricultural system, honey bees are not native to North America.  With an estimated 400 different species of native bees in Minnesota, we think they deserve their own list of amazing facts.

1.  Bees in Minnesota show tremendous diversity, ranging in size from small sweat bees to large bumble bees.  They may be black and yellow striped like cartoon bees but can also be green, orange, or metallic blue.
2.  Most Minnesota bees are solitary, meaning they do not nest with other bees and do not share responsibility for maintaining a hive or colony.
3.  Many bees spend most of their life as larvae or pupae and may only be active as adults for a few weeks of the year.  You probably have many bees in your yard that you've never noticed.
4.  Bumble bees, as well as a few other bees, use a process called "buzz pollination" to shake pollen from hard-to-reach flowers like those in the family Solanaceae. By vibrating their flight muscles at a particular frequency, they are able to shake the pollen off the flower.  You can see buzz pollination in action in this video.
5.  None of the bees native to Minnesota make honey.  Bumble bees may store 1-2 days worth of nectar in “honey pots” in case of poor weather or other events that may prevent them from foraging but they do not make honey from the nectar.
6.  Some bees are kleptoparasites meaning that instead of building their own nests and providing food for their offspring, they lay their eggs in the nests of other bees.  This isn't altogether unusual in the animal kingdom; cowbirds are also known for this behavior.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

North Woods, Great Lakes Curriculum Premiere

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Audience members who contributed to the development of the curriculum stand and receive recognition.

The first Minnesota Master Naturalist Program North Woods Great Lakes course was taught in Duluth in 2008, making the Great Lakes Aquarium an appropriate venue for the premiere of the latest curriculum book, North Woods, Great Lakes: An Introduction to the Natural History of Minnesota’s Coniferous Forests. Hundreds of Master Naturalist volunteers have since completed the course, graduating into service to promote awareness, conservation, and understanding of Minnesota’s natural environment in their communities.

The cover of North Woods, Great Lakes: An Introduction to the Natural History of Minnesota’s Coniferous Forests.

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Amy Rager, state program director for the Minnesota Master Naturalist Program.

On Monday, February 3rd, over one-hundred Master Naturalist graduates, instructors, specialists, University of Minnesota Extension & DNR staff gathered at the Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth to celebrate the premiere of the North Woods, Great Lakes (NWGL) curriculum. This 316-page curriculum focuses on the unique features of the environment found in the northeastern part of the state and serves as the textbook for northern Minnesota-focused NWGL Master Naturalist classes. Amy Rager, the state program director for the Master Naturalist Program, kicked off the night with her perspective on what it took to develop this comprehensive natural history curriculum. She shared a brief program history,, congratulating graduates and contributors alike for their dedication, and continued involvement in the Master Naturalist program.

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Kurt Mead, Minnesota DNR Tettegouche State Park Interpretive Naturalist and author of Dragonflies of the North Woods.

Keynote speaker, Kurt Mead, took the podium later in the night. As a Department of Natural Resources interpretive naturalist at Tettegouche State Park, Kurt contributed to the development of the NWGL curriculum and worked with various Master Naturalist volunteers over the years. During his presentation, Kurt described t the characteristics that make Minnesota’s North Woods, Great Lakes biome unique and fascinating.

Over three-thousand participants have completed the statewide Minnesota Master Naturalist program since its inception in 2005. Master Naturalist volunteers have contributed over four hundred thousand hours service through stewardship, research, and education impacting over 3.4 million acres of Minnesota’s natural resources. The NWGL curriculum has received wide recognition as a quality resource for learning about natural history and ecology in the region. The February premiere was a celebration of all that the program has been able to accomplish. It was a way to get people together to discuss their Master Naturalist stories and share the experiences that have led to the success of the program.

The loon, a Minnesota Master Naturalist icon.
Thank you to all Master Naturalist volunteers, instructors, contributors, and the public for making the Minnesota Master Naturalist Program a success. We look forward to working together to further build upon the mission of University Extension, Minnesota DNR, and the Minnesota Master Naturalist Program.

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