Rare rusty-patched bumble bee discovered in Virginia survey

SmithsonianScience.org

The rusty-patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis), which has not been seen in the eastern United States in five years, has been found by a Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute research team at Sky Meadows State Park in Delaplane, Va. This formerly common bee has disappeared from 87 percent of its range in the Upper Midwest and Eastern Seaboard and is feared headed for extinction.

The research team, led by Bill McShea and Tom Akre of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and T’ai Roulston from the University of Virginia, surveyed bee populations at 17 Virginia sites from May through August to study the influence of land management on bee diversity. Only one individual of this now rare species was found among nearly 35,000 bees belonging to 126 species collected and examined by the study.

“We thought this bumble bee was extinct in this region,” McShea said. “Finding one bee, well this is the stuff conservationists live for. The decline of bee species is of great conservation concern and scientists are actively investigating potential causes to figure out what the culprit is. If we lose bees, we lose critically important pollinators.”

Read more at SmithsonianScience.org

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