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New bee family discovered in Kootenays

The melittidae bee family has now been discovered west of the Rockies.
The melittidae bee family has been found in the the Pend d’Orielle by a scientist studying biodiversity. (photo courtesy Lincoln Best)

Lincoln West is spending his summer camping out in the Pend d’Orielle and he has found something that he has been looking for for more than 10 years — the melittidae.

This is the first record of the melittidae bee family west of the Rockies — bringing the number of bee families in the province to six.

“It is a floral specialist on a wetland plant, one that produces floral oils as opposed to nectar which is the common reward used to attract pollinators,” explained Best. “The bees belong to the genus macropis. They only visit flowers from a single species of plant in the Pend d’Orielle — fringed loosestrife, lysimachia ciliata.”

Best is an independent scientist conducting a biodiversity survey of the native bees in the Pend d’Orielle. The project is funded by Columbia Power through their Waneta Terrestrial Ecosystem Compensation program.

Best explained that the Pend d’Orielle was, “… a previously unstudied area that is ecologically unique from a national and provincial perspective.”

“The area is unstudied and represents a unique ecosystem in Canada,” said Best. “At lower elevations it is considered a very dry warm variant of the Interior Cedar-Hemlock ecosystem. It is known for its high biodiversity of birds, and rare plants, and now for its unique pollinator fauna.”

Best works in academia, with various levels of government, industry, NGOs, charitable organizations and sometimes internationally.

“I teach, study, and labour,” said Best who has been conducting research on the biodiversity of native bees and their floral relations in B.C. and across Canada for nearly 15 years.

Best currently calls Calgary home, but often spends the entire field season in British Columbia’s Southern Interior.

“The value of such information is not intuitive to most people,” explained Best. “High resolution biodiversity and ecological data enables us to identify areas, habitats and ecosystems, of highest conservation value. It also enables highly ecologically-informed decision making for habitat remediation and enhancement. Local data on pollinators can enable us to choose the most effective plants to encourage or establish on impacted lands.”

“The Kootenays have among the highest densities of pollinator species in Canada, and we can use this information to our advantage to manage the land more effectively,” Best encouraged. “A benefit to all stakeholders.”

Betsy Kline

About the Author: Betsy Kline

After spending several years as a freelance writer for the Castlegar News, Betsy joined the editorial staff as a reporter in March of 2015. In 2020, she moved into the editor's position.
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