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Between the United States and Mexico, one of the richest places in bees

It wasn’t talked about less for a few months, but in the past four years, the US-Mexico border has been one of the hottest spots in US and international politics, for well-known reasons tied to the equally popular “wall” separating the two countries. Among the effects, considered implied but in fact very significant, was that this project that was never realized was the destruction of many habitats, which were cut in half by a human artifact that would prevent the movement of many species.

And if you were also wondering at the time “what biodiversity can be found in the desert?” , a new study published in Hymenoptera Research Journal It will give you the answer (or at least one of the possible answers): In a small area of ​​the Chihuahuan Desert, a research group from the University of Rochester in collaboration with Fish and Wildlife Service The American discovered an unusual hot spot for bees, where nearly 500 species are concentrated in an area of ​​just 16 square kilometers.

A crowd of solitary bees. Years of on-site observations and studies have already shown, at least through anecdotal, how the Chihuahua and Sonora deserts, on the US-Mexico border, are so rich in bees—claims, however, that they have not been made before. Tested from a numerical point of view. So the team has spent the past few years collecting samples in a small protected part of the Chihuahua Desert, a process that involved not only researchers, but also students from Mexico, the United States and Guatemala.

The result is about 70,000 samples being collected, identifying them one by one to get a more accurate picture of the diverse species that inhabit the area. The painstaking work of collecting is made necessary by the fact that most of the species found in the area are called solitary bees, which do not live in beehives and do not have a social division into roles (queen, worker, soldier … ), but they play their ecological role on their own, meeting with specimens The other is just for breeding. Moreover, since they are a species that lives in the desert, Chihuahuas have had to adapt to living in a place that is periodically affected by drought, and are able to hibernate in the sand, hindering their growth while waiting for time. a bit like locusts).

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How are bees without us? The mass collection of tens of thousands of samples made it possible to circumvent the above problems: with such a large number of animals available, it becomes easy to identify individual species, and the fact that the process lasted for years also avoided the problem of species in a complete “dry sleep”. The results of the study indicate that more than 470 species of bees live in 16 square kilometers of desert, which is a very high concentration according to the authors of the study, who wrote that “the density of species in this region far exceeds that of any other place in the world, and alone represents about 14% of the full diversity of bee species in America.”

The study is important because it is one of the rare cases where the biodiversity of bees in a wild and untouched area has been analyzed and thus allows us to see what a biodiversity-rich area should look like, and compare it with anthropology to understand the gravity of the situation.

Maggie Benson

"Bacon trailblazer. Certified coffee maven. Zombie lover. Tv specialist. Freelance communicator."

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