TYLER, Texas (KETK) — The American bumblebee population is doing well in East Texas, according to Texas A&M Forest Service. Researchers want East Texans to know that although bees are small, their impact is large.

The data is presented as part of a five-year study that started in 2022 to examine the health of bees in East Texas. Texas A&M Forest Service, Stephen F. Austin State University and Sam Houston State University are collaborating on the study to assess the health of bee communities in 74 counties in East Texas, the forest service said.

The survey was funded through a state grant of $500,000. So far, the results from the first year are positive, Dan Bennett, an associate professor of biology at Stephen F. Austin State University said.

“We’re catching lots of bumblebees of multiple species, and we’re capturing quite a few of the American bumblebee,” said Bennett, the lead entomologist for the project. “We’re finding them most places we look, and that’s a very good sign.”

Bennett said it is a good sign because the American bumblebee in other areas of the United States is not doing well and is being considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

“It’s very early to say, and maybe we’ll get different results this year, but the early indications are that the American bumblebee is doing well here,” he said. “And that’s very important because it has almost disappeared from places like Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.”

The samples were collected from traps in each of the counties for two weeks each in July, August and September, to avoid interfering with primary pollination cycles and decrease the risk of capturing queens during hive-building activities in the spring, the forest service said.

“Everyone that’s working on this project for us deserves credit. We even have fire personnel out there helping out,” said Allen Smith, Texas A&M Forest Service Regional Forest Health Coordinator.

Bennett said that the study’s early findings have already caused questions to arise.

“Are they going to decline soon? Is there a disease coming? What’s the difference between here and where the populations have already declined?” he said.

The samples will help researchers know how the bumblebee population is doing and where they may be in the future.

The researchers are also focusing on populations of long-horned bees which they said are important pollinators of agricultural crops.

“We are trying to find the diet of these bees,” said Justin Williams, biological sciences professor at Sam Houston State University, who serves as the botanist for the research project.

He said they have a goal of introducing more flowers that bees prefer. Williams hopes to find species that haven’t been seen by researchers in decades.

“It’s not that they’ve gone extinct or disappeared, it’s just that people haven’t looked for them,” Williams said. “Natural history just isn’t as appreciated today as it should be, and that’s why this project is so important.”

Bennett hopes the research highlights how important bees are and their role in the ecosystem.

“Without them, we would be left with fewer things to eat, or the things we have to eat would be much more expensive,” Bennett said. “I want people to appreciate what bees are doing for us and understand that if they decline, in a way, so do we.”