WEBSTER GROVES, Mo. – A Saint Louis University student has been credited with the discovery of a rare bee species in Webster Groves.

Nina Fogel, a Ph.D. candidate studying biology and urban ecology at the Billiken Bee Lab, found the Andrena cerebrata bee in June 2020 while surveying a home garden for diversity among the winged insects.

At the time, homeowners Katherine and Bob Ziegler were enrolled in a garden certification program with the St. Louis Audubon Society, allowing students such as Fogel to inspect their landscape.

The Zieglers’ yard was certified silver in the program in 2019, Fogel said. Over the years, they’ve removed ivy, installed additional planter beds, and put more native plant species in their yard.

At first, Fogel didn’t know she’d caught such a rare bee.

“Andrena are notoriously difficult to identify,” she said. “For example, for many of the males, you have to pull out the gonads and look at the unique shape to determine what the species is.”

Fogel turned her specimen over to Mike Arduser, a local bee expert in Webster Groves. Once he had time to look at the specimen, he quickly determined it was an Andrena cerebrata.

Fogel’s research has taken her to gardens near Downtown St. Louis, to Fenton, Ballwin, Chesterfield, and into St. Charles County. All have native plants.

“In these yards so far, I’ve found 90 species of bees,” she said. “Another novel bee is the first record in the state, Sphecodes antennariae. I now have three specimens of that bee: one from Bevo and two from (the) St. Charles area.” 

Fogel said if people want to help bees continue their vital role as pollinators in the local ecosystem, they should install native plants and limit their use of pesticides and fertilizers.

Fogel will finish the doctorate program next year and earn a Ph.D. in biology. Afterward, she hopes to work for a nonprofit or government agency to increase habitat for wildlife in cities.