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article imageStudent finds new species of bee in downtown Toronto

By Igor I. Solar     Sep 3, 2010 in Science
Toronto - Researcher Jason Gibbs collected a bee from a garden while walking up Brunswick Avenue to the Spadina subway station on his way to York University in the fall of 2006; it turned out to be a new species.
As a good entomologist Gibbs is a competent observer, he has a keen eye for bugs, he carries an insect collecting net and a bunch of jars always ready in case he spotted any bees among the flowers.
"People have some really nice front gardens on Brunswick Avenue. I just stop anywhere that looks like good bee habitat and I collect as many as I can." said Gibbs according to CBC News.
Metallic green sweat bee
Metallic green sweat bee
Jon Sullivan
While working on a comprehensive study to revise the taxonomy of sweat bees in North America, focusing on the Canadian species of the bees of the genus Lasioglossum (Dialictus), he collected and examined tens of thousands of bees over several years. Many came from his own collection and others from others’ collections and specimens kept in museums. The process involved sorting them based on morphological characteristics, then testing his assessments using molecular techniques (DNA sequences) based on species bar-codes catalogued at the Canadian Centre for DNA Bar-coding, University of Guelph. Finally, he revised the bees' physical characteristics to determine even finer distinctions to identify them to the species level and to distinguish between males and females.
The completed project was recently published in the journal Zootaxa. Gibbs work resolves many of the complexities in the
Metallic green sweat bee
Metallic green sweat bee
classification of these bees. It provides complete descriptions and illustrations for 84 species including 19 species that are new to science. Besides the bees found at the Brunswick Avenue gardens, which he named Lasioglossum ephialtum, some of his newly described specimens come from the Okanagan region of British Columbia, from locations near the B.C. and Alberta Rocky Mountains and from the western U.S.
Sweat bees are small, about five millimetres long, they are dark-coloured and many have metallic iridescent green markings. The common name comes from their affinity to the salt in human perspiration. They are important pollinators and rather common in gardens in Ontario, but they can also be found in arid regions and high altitude environments around the world. There are several hundreds different species which tend to look very similar.
Metallic blue-green sweat bee
Metallic blue-green sweat bee
Gerald Carter
Gibbs' extensive research on the classification of Canadian sweat bees earned him the 2010 dissertation prize from York University. He will continue conducting postdoctoral research at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., working on similar studies on the bees of the Eastern United States and Mexico.
More about Sweat bee, New species, York University, Entomology
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