Bumble Bee Conservation


Bumble bees are important pollinators of wild flowering plants and agricultural crops. They are able to fly in cooler temperatures and lower light levels than many other bees, making them excellent pollinators—especially at higher elevations and latitudes. They also perform a behavior called “buzz pollination,” in which the bee grabs the flower in her jaws and vibrates her wing muscles to dislodge pollen from the flower. Many plants, including a number of wildflowers and crops like tomatoes, peppers, and cranberries, benefit from buzz pollination.

Because they are essential pollinators, loss of bumble bees can have far ranging ecological consequences. Alarmingly, recent work by the Xerces Society in concert with IUCN Bumble Bee Specialist Group, indicates that some species have experienced rapid and dramatic declines more than others. In fact, more than one quarter (28%) of all North American bumble bees are facing some degree of extinction risk. While some species have received considerable conservation attention, other species such as the Suckley cuckoo bumble bee and the variable cuckoo bumble bee have been largely overlooked.

For information about our efforts to conserve the rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis), please see its profile page; to interact with the history of the rusty patched bumble bee check out the story map.

Key Threats

Bumble bees face many threats including habitat loss, disease, pesticide use, and climate change. Unlike honeybees which have large (>10,000 individuals) perennial hives, bumble bees produce smaller annual colonies (50-1,500 individuals). Due to their smaller annual population sizes, life cycle, and genetic makeup, they are uniquely susceptible to extinction.

loggingBumble bees commercially reared for agriculture are transmitting diseases to wild populations.
One of the biggest factors affecting all pollinators is fragmentation and loss of habitat.
GMO cropsWidespread pesticide use further degrades habitat by removing flowering plants and poisoning pollinators.
climate changeClimate change is affecting bumble bees by changing bloom time and subjecting populations to fluctuating temperatures and weather extremes.

Learn More

Protecting Bumble Bees

Learn what the Xerces Society is doing to preserve and protect at-risk bumble bee species. Learn more

Species At-Risk

Working with experts in the IUCN Bumblebee Specialist Group, the Xerces Society has completed research to better understand the extinction risk of all North American bumble bees. Learn more

Learn About Bumble Bees

Learn about the life cycle, foraging, and pollination techniques that make bumble bees truly unique! Learn more.


Get Involved


Report a Sighting

Join thousands of citizen scientists across North America in recording your sightings through Bumble Bee Watch. Snap a photo, submit it online, and help us track bumble bee populations in the U.S. and Canada. Do you live in the Pacific Northwest? Join the PNW Bumble Bee Atlas to help us track bumble bees in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

bumble bee habitat

Become a Habitat Steward

Use our bumble bee conservation guidelines and companion brochure to learn how to manage natural areas for bumble bees. Use our Pollinator Conservation Resource Center to find plant lists, guidelines, and fact sheets to create habitat in your garden or on your farm. Be sure to sign the pledge to help Bring Back the Pollinators!

monarch milkweed map

Host or Attend an Event

The Xerces Society works with many agencies and organizations to train land managers, citizen scientists, farmers and gardeners on pollinator conservation issues, including bumble bee monitoring and I.D. workshops. Contact us to host an event near you.



Conserving Bumble Bees

Creating, protecting and restoring habitat is a very important way to conserve the populations of bees that remain. To help landowners and managers achieve this, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation published Conserving Bumble Bees. Guidelines for Creating and Managing Habitat for America’s Declining Pollinators.

Bumble Bee Conservation Brochure

This brochure contains information about how to enhance any landscape to help meet the seasonal needs of bumble bees. View or download as a PDF.

IUCN Bumble Bee Specialist Group

The Bumblebee Specialist Group is working towards a comprehensive and detailed assessment of the global status of bumble bees, including a major red listing effort for all species, as well as promoting their conservation. Click here to read more.

Learn About Bumble Bees

Learn about the life-cycle of bumble bees, how to ID them, download pocket guides, and use interactive resources. Read more.

A Ghost in the Making

Natural history photographer Clay Bolt is on a multi-year quest to tell the stories of our native bees, and one elusive species – the Rusty-patched Bumble Bee – has become his white whale. In January of 2013, the Xerces Society and partners filed a petition to list the rusty patched bumble bee as an endangered species under the US Endangered Species Act.

The film from Day’s Edge Productions and acclaimed nature photographer Clay Bolt illuminates the challenges faced by the critically endangered species. In conjunction with the film’s release, a change.org petition urging the US Fish and Wildlife Service to add the rusty patched bumble bee as an endangered species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act has gained over 125k signatures.

You may view the full-length film below, and find out more at rustypatched.com





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Contact Us

Email us with your questions and comments about bumble bees.

Learn About Bumble Bees
IUCN Bumblebee Specialist Group

Working with experts in the IUCN Bumblebee Specialist Group, the Xerces Society has completed research to better understand the extinction risk of all North American bumble bees and has found that more than one-quarter of North America’s bumble bee fauna are at risk of extinction. Learn more about bumble bee species at risk in the US and Canada.

Become a citizen scientist!
Join Bumble Bee Watch

Contribute your local bumble bee sightings to Bumble Bee Watch!. Learn more.

Help us track and conserve the bumble bees of the Pacific Northwest

If you live in Oregon, Idaho, or Washington - you can contribute to the Pacific Northwest Bumble Bee Atlas. Learn more.

Take Action!
Sign the Pledge!

Sign the pledge and take action to help protect pollinators and their essential habitats! Learn more.

Bumble Bee Conservation News
  • To Protect Pollinators We Must Address All Risk Factors

  • The Source of Hope and Wonder Comes in Small Packages

  • Working Together in Iowa to Find the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee

  • Insects Lose as Trump Administration Weakens the Endangered Species Act

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes Endangered Species Act protection for Franklin’s bumble bee

  • Pollinator Conservation Program Digest – June 2019