O2O Exciting Tidbits
Photo by Kimberly Tillman
O2O Exciting Tidbit Post #6 June, 2021
The Florida Museum’s press release on the Blue Calamintha Bee
Florida Scrub habitat
The Florida scrub habitat can have many names in the state. “Scrubs are often named by the dominant plant species, as in rosemary scrub, sand pine scrub, palmetto scrub, or oak scrub. Florida scrubs may be classified as coastal or interior.” (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Florida Scrub). Florida’s scrub habitat is critically endangered and endemic (only found here), found on the highest elevations in Florida. It occurs on what are old sand dunes, dating back millions of years, when most of the state was underwater and these areas were the only land above the sea. Sometimes this habitat is called the desert of Florida, because the ground consists of deep, white sandy soils that quickly filter rainwater to the Floridan aquifer. The plant and animals species that live in this habitat are extremely hardy, drought tolerant, and extraordinary. Many of these species are endemic to this habitat. Florida Scrub habitat is critically endangered because of its attractiveness to different types of development. Protection of what is left and proper management is vital. Our Ocala National Forest(ONF) contains the largest protected swath of Florida Scrub. Learn more about the USDA Forest Service’s dedication to the rare and endemic species that call Florida scrub home below in their partner highlight.
The O2O Can Now Be Called a Home To the Blue Calamintha Bee!
The Florida Museum of Natural History (FLMNH) and the University of Florida (UF) have recently discovered the rare Blue Calamintha Bee in our O2O landscape! This bee was first described in 2011. At that time it was only known to four locations in the state. All were on the Lake Wales Ridge. As of 2021, thanks to research by Dr. Jaret Daniels, Florida Museum curator of Lepidoptera and the project’s Principal Investigator, post-doctoral associate Chase Kimmel, and field technician Clint Gibson, the first nest sighting of this species was located and several observations were made that have expanded its range! The Blue Calamintha Bee has now been documented nesting in the Ocala National Forest! This is a great location for the Calamintha Bee. Ocala National Forest (ONF) is the largest remaining continuous swath of Florida Scrub and USDA Forest Service ONF’s dedication to open and connected scrub habitat means that this bee, along with many other species, have a bright future here. Read more about ONF in the O2O Partner Highlight below!
Like many rare species, the Blue Calamintha Bee has a few unique specialties.
-The Blue Calamintha Bee could be supporting the existence of two rare plants, Ashe’s Calamint (Calamintha ashei) and False Rosemary (Conradina brevifolia). “This bee could be closely tied to the pollination of these endangered plants” said Dr. Jaret Daniels, Florida Museum curator of Lepidoptera and the project’s Principal Investigator. Both plants have similar flower shapes but different bloom times. These two factors are believed to benefit this Calamintha Bee by extending its nectar foraging time. See the left side bar for more information on each plant.
-This rare blue bee is another unique species that calls Florida’s endemic (only found here), highly endangered Florida scrub habitat home. Ocala National Forest protects the largest remaining contiguous piece of Florida Scrub. Learn more about this habitat on the left and Ocala National Forest below.
What can you do to help this rare species?
- Support permanent protection of Florida Scrub habitat. This can be done by land purchases or conservation easements.
- Manage your scrub to keep the overall vegetation in young conditions (short, less than or equal to 6 feet tall, with open white sandy areas).
- Support Florida’s prescribed fire policies
- Learn more about scrub habitat management from our partners. See the partner highlight on Ocala National Forest below and connect with us for more information.
O2O Partner Highlight
Click on the picture below to read Ocala National Forests Environmental Assessment for Southwest Zone Scrub
“It is about making sure we manage for the spectrum of the ecosystem in a connected framework because we don’t know what all is there that could be lost if we manage narrowly, if we “farm” for a single species rather than try to mimic the ecological range of historic conditions”- Carrie Sekerak, Ocala National Forest Deputy District Ranger
The Ocala National Forest (ONF) is the largest of all remaining tracts of sand pine scrub. With USDA Forest Service ONF’s dedication to managing large tracks of this habitat for its unique plants and animals this rare Blue Calamintha Bee and many other species like it have a bright future.
Recently USDA Forest Service ONF wrote an Environmental Assessment paper on their scrub that includes management descriptions. You can find the whole paper attached on the left. Here are a few highlights about their scrub management areas and how it effects rare and endemic species in this habitat.
–Scrub habitat makes up 60% or 230,000 acres in the ONF. ONF’s total acreage is around 385,000 acres.
–Their Forest Plan goals and objectives have changed over the years to have a dedicated purpose that improves their scrub habitat for wildlife that need large openings to thrive.
–Most of their scrub habitat is divided up into two management areas (MA 8.2 and MA 8.4) to produce over all landscape and individual area outcomes.
–Their MA 8.2 is 153,333 acres and it is managed for “Sand pine, mixed regeneration, moderate openings” (USDA Forest Service Environmental Assessment, Southwest Zone Scrub, 2021, p.8). This means that 153,333 acres of scrub will continually have sand pine trees heavily harvested from the area. This will produce open sandy areas, uneven aged scrub oaks, and uneven aged sand pine trees throughout this management area, providing a mixed age patchy scrub environment. See MA 8.2 acreage in orange on map 2 on the left.
–MA 8.4 is 47,113 acres and it is managed to constantly have short vegetation and open sand. This provides an ideal habitat for species like the Florida Scrub-jay as well as other rare plants and animals that use this habitat along side them. This 47,113 acres of open scrub may expand in size over time (USDA Forest Service Environmental Assessment, Southwest Zone Scrub, 2021, p.8). See MA 8.4 acreage in pink on map 2 on the left.
-ONF is also home to the largest population of Florida scrub-jays! Their population accounts for about a third of the population in the state! Says Craig Faulhaber the avian conservation coordinator for the state of Florida with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Together these management areas make a connected swath of 230,000 acres of moderately open to open Florida Scrub habitat! Scrub species thrive in an open connected environment like this. Florida Scrub is an endemic and endangered habitat in the state. This habitat is also home to an astounding number of rare and endemic plant and animal species. USDA Forest Service ONF is working hard to provide a great future for this habitat, its many plant and animal species, along with meeting their forest plan objectives. They are a good example of connecting across the board whether it be the land and species that need it, or forest objectives mingling with nature. USDA Forest Service Ocala National Forest is doing great things.
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