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Three photos of various species of bees on flowers in the Presidio. Bees vary when it comes to the flowers they polinate. 'The generalists survive. The specialists have trouble,' says Professor John Hafernik, who recently uncovered more than 50 species of bees in the Presidio. Photo by Will Elders, NPS.Got Bees?
Biology Professor John Hafernik and seven student researchers recently took part in a scientific sting operation. The assignment? Track down and count the bees dwelling in underground nests, trees and other suspected hideouts inside the Presidio.

The study was the first in a series launched last year by the Presidio to take inventory of the organisms dwelling inside the 1,480-acre park just south of the Golden Gate Bridge. "The loss of pollinators has become a global concern," Hafernik says.

Colorful traps placed in a variety of areas inside the Presidio gates, from recently restored woodland areas to coastal bluffs, were used as lure for the visual insects. From March to October, the peak foraging time for bees, the team collected 2,418 bees, representing at least 56 species.

Students identified and pinned the majority of the bees now on display in the University's etymology museum; several small John Does sent to experts at the University of California, Davis, are still awaiting identification.

"It is hard to imagine so many species of bees, but most of them are very small, solitary and unnoticeable, and do not resemble our image of what a typical bee is," says Vicki Moore, a grad student in ecology and systematic biology.

She and her fellow researchers were encouraged by their findings, which suggest that the Presidio's diversity of habitats encourages a thriving community of pollinators.

The Presidio site with the greatest bee diversity had a good supply of both native and non-native plants."People are accustomed to thinking of non-native species as poor for an ecosystem, and they often are in many respects," Moore says, "but for many pollinating insects, non-native plants provide nectar resources during the times of the year when native plants may no longer be in flower."

Hafernik's next study at the Presidio will focus on the park's butterflies and damsel flies.

-- Adrianne Bee



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