The Intern, the Bee & the Bigger Story

Stewardship and Discovery at Thomas Darling Preserve

Wildlands Conservancy loves to announce when we, together with our community of support, have successfully protected irreplaceable natural lands. The forests, mountains, wetlands and critical habitat we permanently protect, call us to do so in perpetuity.

Among the more than 55,000 acres we’ve protected to date, 2,600 have forever been set aside to offer the Lehigh Valley and Lehigh River watershed nine nature preserves. In addition to offering get-outdoors destinations close to home, our nature preserves also offer some of the most organic of classrooms. They become outdoor learning facilities, where students of any age can study and explore.

From the first revelation of a salamander under a rock all the way through to college students pursuing conservation careers doing scientific research – there are countless opportunities for real-world field experience. Sometimes, intrepid learners even “naturally” unearth some “buzzworthy” discoveries!

Habitat Management at one of our Pocono Mountain Preserves

Wildlands’ Pocono-based Thomas Darling Preserve consists of more than 1,300 acres filled with the largest spruce forests in the state. It is a special landscape of groundwater-fed glacial wetlands that provide unique opportunities for birding, hiking, hunting and more.

The site has been a home-base for important, ongoing efforts to steward populations of at-risk species like the Golden Winged Warbler and the Northern Flying Squirrel.

Meet Joey the Intern (and the Bee!)

Supporting our Golden Wing Warbler efforts was one eager intern, who was not expecting to come upon one “not-so-busy” bee. Meet Joey Cammarano and realize the big story behind his rare-specimen find.

A student at Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pa, Cammarano had always wanted to work in zoology, but found a special passion for insects, which is now the focus of his education. He interned with Wildlands in the summer of 2018.

Being involved firsthand in our habitat stewardship efforts enabled him to simultaneously conduct some insect studies – focusing mainly on caterpillars (which are a preferred food for Golden Winged Warblers). Cammarano sampled insect populations inside and outside the established 70-acre management area – comparing the data sets. Not only did he find a much greater variety of bugs in the managed area, he also found himself face to face with a very different bumblebee specimen.

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Intern Joey Cammarano pauses before heading back to Ursinis College, showcasing one of the most preferred tools of the trade!


 “This bee was just different. What stood out were the stripes on the abdomen. It was much more yellow, while the bumblebees commonly found in this area are mostly brown,” says Cammarano.

After further inspection, it became apparent that he’d indeed collected a very rare species of bee – the Ashton’s Cuckoo Bumblebee, to be precise – that is currently listed as critically endangered in North America. In addition, he found a type of bee called the Fernald’s Cuckoo bumblebee which is also considered quite scarce with their population in decline.

Really, Why all the Buzz about this Little Bee?

This rare-specimen finding alone, while certainly incredibly amazing, is part of a bigger story about our return on investment. It gifts us an amazing measure – one that tells us that our habitat stewardship efforts at Thomas Darling are going even better than expected.

While the project goal may be to increase the population of Golden Winged Warblers, other creatures are finding a newly hospitable territory as well, increasing the overall diversity of the landscape’s flora and fauna. Cammarano posits that the reason the bee exists on the preserve is due to the vegetation – the early successional forest (especially the shrubs and flowers) which have been promoted there by the hard work of staff, stew crew members, volunteers, community partners and others in the wonderful Wildlands family.

“Not only does a discovery like this aid Wildlands’ understanding of the natural resources under its care, it is also an excellent example of why it is so important to give students on-the-ground, dirt-under-the-fingernails experiences. It helps to connect research opportunities for students with the value of furthering our understanding of our preserves,” says Carl Martin, director of property stewardship.

“This was the first time I had been, in any real way, part of a conservation effort. That was very important to me personally. It’s something I’ve aspired to be a part of,” says Cammarano.

Rest assured, the bumblebees Cammarano found will never be far from his mind.

“This experience really confirmed with me that I like doing field work and reaffirmed that this is what I like to do – working with a nonprofit land trust like Wildlands is a career path I could really get into.”


A look inside the Golden-winged Warbler restoration area where Cammarano encountered the rare bee.

A volunteer helps install fencing for habitat efforts to help the return of the Golden-winged Warbler.