It’s World Bee Day. Time for Bee Bingo!

May 20 is World Bee Day, and that’s something that we here in the Sonoran Desert have more reasons to celebrate than most. We live in a global hotspot of bee diversity, rivaled only by that of some arid regions around the Mediterranean Sea. Despite this, we know very little about bees, and they’re greatly underappreciated.

The Tucson Bee Collaborative was formed to address this lack of understanding. TBC is a partnership among scientists, students, teachers, artists and volunteers to better understand our regional bee diversity and to inspire wonder and appreciation of these tiny creatures. For the past five years, volunteers with the Desert Museum have been sampling bees from across the Tucson Basin. Because bees are difficult to identify visually, the bees are passed on to students at Pima Community College and the University of Arizona for identification through a tool called DNA barcoding.

But, you might ask, if bees are so hard to identify, how are we going to play Bee Bingo?!? The answer is that while it may be difficult to identify bees to species, it’s not so difficult to recognize different types of bees — for example, a green iridescent sweat bee versus a shiny black carpenter bee.

Scroll down to see our Bee Bingo board, learn how to play, and get tips for finding each of the bees.

How to Play

In many bingo games, players sit at tables while a caller shouts out numbers pulled at random. But with Bee Bingo, you go outside and get involved! That’s right. Over the next two weeks, from May 20 through June 3, we encourage you to explore your neighborhood, go on hikes, and read up on bees and the flowers they need and love. When you see a bee or one of the pollinator-friendly plants listed on this board somewhere in nature, keep track of your find. Be one of the first five people to get five in a row — horizontally, vertically, or diagonally — and you win a prize.

What counts as a win in Bee Bingo?

Seeing five bees or plants in a row listed on the board — whether horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. No need to take photos to prove each find, but we encourage you to document when you can! Honor-system rules. You can print the board or just keep track in a notebook.

How do I let you know I got Bee Bingo? 

Go to the original Facebook or Instagram post from May 20, and comment directly to that post. Let us know you got Bee Bingo AND share any fun stories from where you found your bees and what you discovered playing the game! You can also attach your best photos to the post on Facebook, or send us a Direct Message on Instagram. Not on social media? Feel free to email us to let us know!

How long does the game last?

From May 20 through June 3. Enough time to explore, find bees, and have fun with friends and family. 

Is there a prize for getting Bee Bingo?

Yes! The first two people to get Bee Bingo will get a free day pass to the Desert Museum, and the first five will get a water bottle from Sky Island Alliance. We’ll be in touch with winners directly via email or social media.

Scouting Tips

Cactus and globe mallow are great flowers to find native bees, which in Tucson is any bee other than a honeybee. Also, the flowers of some of our desert trees, such as palo verde and mesquite, are buzzing right now. See below for enlarged pictures of the bees on our bingo board with some additional tips and info for finding each kind of bee listed on our board!

Anthrophorula sp.
Ground-nesting
Oversized pollen-collecting hairs on back legs
Good at pollinating tomatoes and chiles
Ashmediella sp.
Above ground cavity-nesting and ground-nesting
Pollen-collecting hairs on the underside of abdomen
Red or black abdomen
Cactus Bee (Diadasia sp.)
Diadasia means “completely thick and hairy”
Ground nesting in large aggregations
Some species collect pollen only from cactus flowers

Cactus Bee (Diadasia sp

European Honeybee (Apis mellifera)
Non-native bee imported from Europe
Highly social, unlike most native bees
Nearly all feral honeybees in Arizona are Africanized
Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa sp.)
Chew holes in wood to make nest cavities
Massive, slow-flying bees
Can look scary, but are actually gentle giants highly unlikely to sting
Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa sp.)
Chew holes in wood to make nest cavities
Massive, slow-flying bees
Can look scary, but are actually gentle giants highly unlikely to sting
Leafcutter Bee (Megachilidae family)
Pollen-collecting hairs on the underside of abdomen
Cuts out a circular piece of a leaf to use in constructing nest
Some leafcutter bees are important crop pollinators
Longhorn Bee (Eucerini Tribe)
Males have very long antennae
Solitary, ground-nesting
Hairy medium-sized bees, often in globemallow flowers
Small Carpenter Bee (Ceratina sp.)
May have white facial markings
Chews nest holes in old wood
Some species can have female offspring without mating (parthenogenesis)
Sweat Bee (Lasioglossum sp.)
Most abundant bees in North America
Some species are highly social; nearly all are very small
Attracted to human sweat
Sweat Bee (Agapostemon sp.)
Brilliant metallic green, may have yellow-striped abdomen
Agapostemon means “stamen loving”
Solitary, ground-nesting
Sweat Bee (Augochlorella sp.)
Metallic green color
Primitively social, ground-nesting
Only two species west of the Great Plains

Thanks for playing Bee Bingo!

This post is a collaborative effort between the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, the Sky Island Alliance, and the Tucson Bee Collaborative. It is cross-posted on the Sky Island Alliance blog. All photos are by Glenn Seplak.

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