Seeing TIGER for the bees: digitizing apian specimens from Thailand's national parks

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Megachile disjuncta-iNat-ktton-hero
Disjunct resin bee (Megachile disjuncta), Thailand. Photo 2021 Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang via iNaturalist Research-grade Observations, licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

The seven extant families of bees form one of the worlds' most important groups of insects, and publicly accessible data on their distribution is an invaluable resource for conservation and pollination ecology. However, most records are biased toward specimens collected in North America and Europe, whereas bees from Southeast Asia (SEA) are poorly understood. This project will build on the results of a previous BIFA project that provided GBIF's first dataset of bees in Thailand and Southeast Asia whose records were largely assembled from specimens collected through active sampling.

In the mid-2000s, a Thai-U.S. collaboration operated the TIGER project (Thailand Inventory Group for Entomological Research), a large-scale collection expedition in 24 of the country's national parks. While more than 150 bee specimens were DNA sequenced and the resulting data deposited in BOLD and GBIF, half of the bee specimens from TIGER languished at the Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden (QSBG) without being properly processed and curated into the collection. In 2019, the project lead and QSBG initiated an effort to process and inventory these specimens.

This project will sort, identify, georeference and image at least 3,000 bee specimens from the QSBG, assembling data on Thai bees collected in hard-to-access protected areas—and providing an important complement to the previous BIFA-supported dataset and barcoding data in BOLD and GBIF.

Project progress
The project started with attending the Data mobilization workshop in November 2021 and a project team member being awarded an advance badge.

At midterm reporting and after two visits to the QSBG in Chiang Mai to obtain bee specimens from the depository at the botanical garden, the project first published its dataset “Database and digitization of bees from TIGER project (Thailand)” with 1,687 specimens, and had begun the transcription of the label data, photographing and georeferencing work.

By final reporting the project had met its objectives with 3,393 verified records of bees (Anthophila) from 5 families: Andrenidae (3), Apidae (1,359), Colletidae (15), Halictidae (1,903), and Megachilidae (113), uploaded and published in its dataset “Database and digitization of bees from TIGER project (Thailand)”. Bees have been identified to 33 described genera and 74 species despite 119+ morphospecies identified, which suggests more describing of new species and revisions are essential for the future. In addition to this more than 8,200 images from 2,029 specimens were captured and 3,156 out of 3,393 occurrence records are georeferenced.

Overall, project implementation has been successful despite many delays during the COVID-19 pandemic. The project has contributed to address an important knowledge gap by publishing openly the first collection of bee specimens collected from national parks and restricted areas in Thailand. The TIGER bee dataset and the data from the previous BIFA project (DOI 10.15468/tf4ejd) will also provide backbone information for future work in DNA barcoding of Thai bees associated with data in iBOL (International Barcoding of Life) and GBIF.

Taxonomically important records of certain species resulted from this work are envisaged to be published in scientific journals to complement the database in the future. Other post project activities envisaged by the project team include: continuing to update the TIGER bee database, inc. with more bee specimens left at QSBG; showcasing the published database through a workshop, as well as disseminating and sharing the processes and methods of digitization of bee occurrence records with other research collections, universities, and institutions in Thailand through communications to the QSBG website and other social media.

€ {{ 10400 | localNumber }}
€ {{ 10725 | localNumber }}
1 November 2021 - 31 October 2022
Project identifier
Contact details

Natapot Warrit
Chulalongkorn University, Department of Biology
254 Phayathai Road, Wang Mai, Pathum Wan District
10330 Bangkok