Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Rusty Patched Bumblebee Now Endangered

Rusty Patched Bumblebee         Photo: Dan Mullen via
I had never heard of the rusty patched bumblebee, but it was a common sight across New Jersey twenty years ago. Now, I may have missed out on seeing one and knowing what I was seeing.

Last month, it became first bumblebee to appear on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) endangered species list.  Actually, it is also the first bee of any kind in the contiguous 48 states to be declared endangered, according to the USFWS.

Like all bumblebees, it is an important pollinator.

The name comes from a small rust-colored patch on the middle of its abdomen
We often associate pollinating bees with crops that we consume, but they are also important to forests, parks, meadows and shrublands. And, in turn, those places support wildlife.

Listing the bee as endangered will hopefully help gain partners and focus resources on stopping their decline.

The USFWS notes that there were hundreds of populations across 28 states including New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Since 2000, the bee has been missing from New Jersey. The only known location in these two states is one in Delaware County, PA.

As with other bees and insects that are threatened, pests and diseases spread by the commercial bumble bee industry, along with habitat destruction or alteration, pesticides and perhaps even a changing change, all threaten them.

To see the species return to our state there would need to be flowers upon which to forage from early spring through fall and safe places to build nests and overwinter. Those are things New Jersey can provide. But a further requirement - a pesticide-free environment protected from the pressures of introduced diseases from commercial bees - would be much more difficult to provide.

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