Background of the project
• Three-year project (2019-2021), funded by Min. of Agric. & Forestry
• Working group: Juha Pöyry, Janne Heliölä & Mikko Kuussaari (SYKE)
• In collaboration with: Eeva-Liisa Korpela (Beekeepers’ Association),
Juho Paukkunen (Finnish Expert Group on Hymenopterans)
• Consists of three Work Packages:
1. Status and population trends of Finnish pollinators (Pöyry)
2. Establishing a national bumblebee monitoring scheme (Heliölä)
3. Use of honey bees for crop pollination and its economical value
WP2. Establishing a national
bumblebee monitoring scheme
• Main objective: designing and piloting a national bumblebee monitoring
scheme for Finland
• Compiling data on the potential methodological options.
• Comparing previous experiences on these, both in Finland and elsewhere.
• Selecting the most suitable method, and adapting it into Finnish conditions.
• Volunteers are sought to test the monitoring in practice.
• Finally, making a proposal on how the monitoring scheme can be carried out
in the future (2021–).
Bumblebees are monitored with similar
already in e.g. the UK and Ireland
Transect counting as a method
• First task is to design the transect - a walking route - with the coordinator.
• Location is free to decide; recommended to be near your home, summer cottage, e.g.
• Its length should be around 500-1000 metres.
• Easy terrain to walk (pathways, road margins e.g.); short enough to be fast to walk.
• Last, the transect is divided into 5-10 sections according to habitat types.
• The method was originally developed for butterflies in the 1970s.
Counting bumblebees in practice
• The route is walked with slow pace.
• At least four times between May-August (i.e.,
once a month); prefably more often.
• While walking, all observed bumblebees are
counted from each section.
• But, noting only those met within 5x5x5 metres area
• Identified as well as you can; either by
species, species group, or as merely
• Butterflies serve as a good model
• Already a quite long time series (1999-)
• Widely monitored in Europe since 1990s
• Same method for both collecting and
analyzing the monitoring data
Yearly abundance indeces per species.
From these, various kinds of collated
indeces can be derived.
Where do we aim with the
index for all 45
From Finland, annual indeces for 45 butterfly species
The biggest problem:
How to find motivated (and able)
• Far more people can identify e.g. butterflies and moths in Finland.
• Few people can readily identify all/most bumblebees by species.
• This group of experts is likely to be far less than 50 people.
• These experts often have neither the time nor interest to monitor
• Therefore, we felt we’ll need to train our own experts to do the
The solution: lowering the bar to
participate, and allowing room for
• Few volunteers are already experienced, while most are beginners with little
or no experience from any insects.
• Some bumblebee species can’t be reliably identified in the field.
Solution: records can be reported at varying level of accuracy.
• Identified on species level. It would be good to learn at least a few “easy” species in the
beginning. As experience grows, it will be possible to recognize more and more species.
• Identified on species group level. If identification is uncertain because there are two or
more species that look similar, the observation should be reported at the species group level.
• Identified as merely “bumblebee”. This is enough for a beginner, at least for a part of the
individuals more difficult to identify (very worn out, flew by too fast, etc.)
Bumblebees brought new
people into the group of
• The volunteers differed quite much from ‘conventional’ insect experts
• Most long-term lepidopterists in Finland are elderly men (50-80 yrs)…
• …while majority of our recorders are younger (20-50 yrs) and women!
Bumblebees attract a very different group of people.
Helps to increase the shrinking group of insect enthusiasts!
• Within a few years, most recorders are expected to learn the generally rather few
(5-15) bumblebee species in their own area.
‘Learning by doing’
Eventually, we’ll have a sufficient number of able recorders!
Recorders seem quite happy with the
monitoring Likely that many/most will continue in the coming years.
…even though identification is sometimes difficult.
The first results: 70 sites
monitored in 2019
• A total of 8 690 individuals from 28* species (out of 37).
• Records with varying level of accuracy:
• 35 % of individuals identified by species*
• 41 % by species group (e.g., B. lucorum –like species (4 species in total))
• 23 % as ”bumblebees”
• Much variation in the observed numbers of individuals.
Individuals per transect Individuals per species group
B. veteranus –like
B. hortorum –like
B. hypnorum –like
B. pascuorum –like
B. lapidarius –like
B. lucorum –like
Records for 2020 still on their way
• Around 100 sites monitored; data for ~15 still missing
• No analysis on the data yet, but the total amounts of most
species (groups) far exceed those in 2019
Seems that 2020 was better for bumblebees than 2019
• Difference probably due to differing summer weathers
July 2020 was rainy, while in 2019 it was dry; more nectar available?
• Final results for this year should be available by Christmas.
• Results for 2019-2020 will be reported during winter.
• Monitoring continued during summer of 2021.
• In 2021, an official proposal on how to establish an on-
going, long-term Bumblebee Monitoring Scheme for
• Identifying responsible parties for both its funding and maintenance.
• Required resources, both financial and technical.
• Would support the National Pollinator Strategy (in preparation)
• Goal is to start regular functioning in summer of 2022.