DESTIN, Fla. (WKRG) — The University of Florida and the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences needs volunteers to find a rare bee in Northwest Florida. The Hesperapis oraria, or the Gulf Coast Evening Bee, is an endemic, threatened, solitary bee that pollinates specific sand dune flowers once a year.

Between Sept. and Oct., trained beachgoers can trek the white sand dunes to document the presence of the bees. Sand Dunes are federally protected areas of the beach giving bee monitoring volunteers special access to the Emerald Coast’s treasure.

Those planning early fall vacations can also join the hunt. Training is done online on Aug. 15 by UF/IFAS agent Laura Tiu. Another in-person training session will be scheduled at a later time.

Volunteers must be 18 or older and sign up on UF community website. Beach monitoring will begin mid-Sept. and run through Oct.

Where to search for the bees?

“Bay, Walton, Santa Rosa, Escambia and Okaloosa Counties. State parks, federal parks and wildlife refuges from St. Andrews to Fort Pickens along the gulf coast of the Florida Panhandle.”

UF/ IFAS Walton County Extension office

Times to monitor for bees fall in the early morning and around sunset each day. Organizers said the bees are typically found pollenating in sand dune flower beds, making for very rare and beautiful photographs.

The bees are listed as endemic, threatened, and solitary which means they are only found in this area of the world, they are close to becoming an endangered species and they do not live in hives.

Gulf Coast Evening bees pollinate one type of flower, the coastal plain honeycombhead, which can only be found in Georgia and the Florida peninsula, according to UF.

All interested participants must register for the training. For more information, contact Dr. Laura Tiu, Florida Sea Grant, Walton County, lgtiu@ufl.edu or 850-612-6197 or Sherri Lynch, Student Researcher, 850-728-4734, sjkraeft@ufl.edu.

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