You probably know bees are pollinators, and very beneficial to the environment. But how much do you know about bees that live in an Ozark fen— a wetland fed by groundwater, not rain or surface streams? Here’s a chance to bee-come more informed.

Photo credit: Pexels, Pixabay

By Peg Cameron Gill

An Ozark fen is a habitat that hosts a rich array of plants, which in turn support a variety of bees. Some of these bees are specialized to feed on only one type of plant, while others are generalists that feed on multiple species.

You can learn more about the relationship between the two on a fascinating free hike on Friday, July 28 at Bennett Spring State Park.

Park staff will present a brief slideshow about bees and flowers at 11 AM in the park’s nature center. This will be followed by a 1–mile guided hike on Whistle Trail, ending at approximately 1 PM.

The trail travels along the spring, goes up a bluff, heads back down, and ends at the historic wooden bridge near the Niangua River. Along the way, the naturalist guide will discuss karst topography (a landscape characterized by numerous caves, sinkholes, fissures, and underground streams) and the park’s fen. Participants will have opportunities to observe flowers and bees.

During the event, hikers should keep an eye out for the following flowers that will be in bloom: Wild bergamot and violet wood sorrel.

Wild bergamot
Photo credit: Cory Castellanos, Pixabay

The relationship between plants and bees is mutually beneficial: They rely on and are impacted by each other. Understanding this relationship, and the importance of each side, will allow for a better understanding of the role of Bennett Spring State Park, and its fen, as a nature preserve.

Violet wood sorrel
Photo credit: Erna Uys, Pixabay

Participants are encouraged to wear closed-toe shoes that are appropriate for hiking. Water bottles and sunscreen are also recommended.

A bit about Bennett Spring State Park: It’s one of Missouri’s earliest state parks and continues to attract scores of fishermen and nature lovers.

The valley that cradles Bennett Spring has created a place of peace and recreation that has welcomed generations of enthusiastic anglers. More than 100 million gallons of clear, cool water gush from Bennett Spring each day and form a spring branch stocked daily with rainbow trout waiting for lucky fishermen.

Photo courtesy of Missouri State Parks

Fishing may be the main draw, but the park also offers many other amenities such as a dining lodge, campgrounds, cabins, and hiking trails. Whether you’re a traditional fishing enthusiast or someone seeking a place to relax and refresh, Bennett Spring State Park has what you need.

Other activities include floating on the Niangua River. There’s a  concrete boat launch located next to the confluence of the river and the spring branch, near Campground 1, and it’s free to use. The Park does not offer watercraft rentals, so it’s strictly BYOB—bring your own boat or raft.

As far as that other BYOB, alcoholic beverages are not allowed in canoes and rafts.

Read more about Bennett Spring State Park in this article.

For hundreds more events, visit Missouri Life’s Event Calendar.