Nachusa News: More Rare Bees Spotted
Un-bee-lievable! Awhile back, we reported that a researcher at Nachusa Grasslands spotted a rusty patched bumble bee, which is a federally- and state-endangered species. The bee was discovered in a prairie planting, which shows that Nachusa’s prairie restoration efforts are thriving and providing habitat for wildlife.
The latest buzz is that even more unusual species have been spotted, some of which are so rare they don’t even have common names and are known only by their Latin names! Take, for example, Andrena mariae, which can be found buzzing around prairies, fens, and sedge meadows pollinating willow trees. Colletes aestivalis prefers prairie remnants with dry or gravelly soil where it can find prairie alumroot. Colletes andrewsi likes prairie alumroot, too, and was unknown in Illinois until a recent collecting effort in the Chicago region.
What do these and some of the other rare bees found at Nachusa have in common? They are all oligoleges, or specialist pollinators of flowering plants. That means they may only visit a few, or in some cases, just one flowering plant for their food source. When habitat loss, climate change and other environmental stressors put pressure on the plants these pollinators need to survive, their populations suffer. The wide diversity of plant life in Nachusa’s restored and remnant prairies gives them the places for resting and nesting that they need to thrive.
Why You Should Visit
Blanding’s turtles and many other uncommon or rare animals call Nachusa home. Grassland birds — including grasshopper sparrows, dickcissels and Henslow’s sparrows — perch in the colorful prairie grasses, alongside the state’s largest populations of federally-threatened prairie bush clover. And in October 2014, bison returned to Nachusa. In total, the preserve is home to 700 native plant species and 180 species of birds.
Why the Conservancy Selected This Site
In 1986, recognizing Nachusa offered the best opportunity in the state to restore a large and diverse grassland, the Conservancy purchased the core of the preserve. So far, more than 3,500 acres have been protected at Nachusa Grasslands through acquisition or conservation easements.
What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing
Staff and volunteers from throughout the region work together to preserve and restore Nachusa. Volunteers have donated more than 200,000 hours of labor to the restoration and management of this marvelous example of prairie grassland. These specially-trained volunteers help the Conservancy conduct controlled burns, monitor wildlife, stop the spread of harmful, non-native species and harvest thousands of pounds of seed every year. They help harvest more than 2,500 pounds of seed from the many remnant habitats on the preserve. The seed is used for future prairie plantings and restorations.
We receive many inquiries from visitors interested in seeing Nachusa's bison herd. Please note: The bison can be viewed from the public roadsides only. The herd roams across 1,500 acres of rolling land and are often not visible from the road. Binoculars are helpful. No hiking is permitted inside the fenced bison unit. The other units of the preserve are open dawn to dusk for hiking.