Pacific Northwest Bumble Bee Atlas Project Aims to Engage Citizen Scientists in Tracking Bumble Bees
A Collaborative Regional Effort to Conserve Pollinators
Rich Hatfield, Senior Conservation Biologist, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation
(971) 303-9150; [email protected]
Ross Winton, Regional Wildlife Biologist, Idaho Department of Fish and Game
(208) 324-4359; [email protected]
Ann Potter, Conservation Biologist – Insect Specialist, WA Department of Fish & Wildlife
(360) 902-2496; [email protected]
Andony Melathopoulos, Oregon State University Pollinator Health Extension Specialist
(541) 737-3139; [email protected]
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PORTLAND, Ore., April 18, 2018—A new project is being launched to harness the volunteer power of citizen scientists to help map bumble bees in the Pacific Northwest. This region is home to nearly thirty species of these charismatic and easily recognizable bees, and many of them face an uncertain future.
The Pacific Northwest Bumble Bee Atlas is spearheaded by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon State University, and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. The partners will collaborate with citizen scientists to collect information on bumble bees, including Species of Greatest Conservation Need, in Oregon, Washington and Idaho.
In recent years, the importance of pollinators and their essential role in keeping our environment healthy by pollinating flowers in natural areas and contributing to successful harvests on farms has been recognized, as has their vulnerability, in large part because of widespread losses of bees.
Declines of pollinator populations are alarming. Much attention has been given to the plight of the introduced European honey bee. Less well publicized, but no less important, is the parallel decline of native, wild bee populations, particularly bumble bees.
While this project will target all species of bumble bees, there are three species whose population declines are of particular concern: the western bumble bee (Bombus occidentalis), Morrison’s bumble bee (Bombus morrisoni) and the Suckley cuckoo bumble bee (Bombus suckleyi).
“Washington, Idaho and Oregon are large, and include both heavily populated and wild areas, so we need an army of trained volunteers equipped with cameras to help survey the entire region,” said Rich Hatfield, Senior Conservation Biologist at the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. “With the help of citizen scientists we can cover all three states quickly, collect high-quality data and contribute information that will aid in conservation.”
One of the goals of the project is to better understand where bumble bee species occur in remote parts of the region. Much of what we currently know about bumble bee distributions is focused on places where people live or travel—towns, cities and near to roads—as well as in key conservation areas like national parks. Getting better information about which species of bumble bees occur in remote areas will help researchers to track these species and understand what types of habitat they are associated with, ultimately supporting the conservation of the most at-risk species.
“While it is important to understand how well human-influenced landscapes affect bumble bee populations, we also need to know what is happening outside of towns and cities,” said Ross Winton, Regional Wildlife Biologist, Idaho Department of Fish and Game. “These larger patterns will help us to understand how bumble bees are faring under larger landscape pressures like climate change and drought.”
Conservation partners across the Pacific Northwest look forward to the lasting effects of this project.
“Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is excited to join with neighboring states and the Xerces Society to launch this regional citizen-science effort that encourages folks to get out into natural areas, observe pollinators and collect vital bumble bee data,” said Ann Potter, Conservation Biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. “The Pacific Northwest Bumble Bee Atlas will be the first of its kind for our region, and a product that will be useful far into the future.”
“A robust state plan for pollinator stewardship must be rooted in measurements of success,” said Andony Melathopoulos, Oregon State University’s Pollinator Health Extension Specialist and contributor to the state’s interagency bee health program, the Oregon Bee Project. But, he comments that what has been missing is a way to monitor native bee populations; “this atlas is a bold first step towards being able to determine whether Oregon’s education and outreach programs are having the desired impact on bumble bee health.”
To help launch the project there will be several citizen science volunteer training events throughout May and June 2018. The events will help citizen scientists connect with other volunteers while learning about bumble bees and how to contribute to the atlas. The project is supported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Competitive State Wildlife Grant Program and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (https://foundationfar.org/).
For more information about the Pacific Northwest Bumble Bee Atlas project, please visit http://www.pnwbumblebeeatlas.org/
For more information about Bumble Bee Watch, please visit http://www.bumblebeewatch.org/
For more information about bumble bee conservation, please visit https://xerces.org/bumblebees/
About the Xerces Society
The Xerces Society is a nonprofit organization that protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitat. Established in 1971, the Society is a trusted source for science-based information and advice. We collaborate with people and institutions at all levels and our work to protect pollinators encompasses all landscapes. Our team draws together experts from the fields of habitat restoration, entomology, botany, and conservation biology with a single focus—protecting the life that sustains us. To learn more about our work, visit www.xerces.org.
About the Pacific Northwest Bumble Bee Atlas
The PNW Bumble Bee Atlas is a collaborative effort between the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, Oregon State University, and the Oregon Department of Agriculture to track and conserve the bumble bees of Oregon, Washington and Idaho.
Supported with funding from:
Photo (available for use with credit):
The western bumble bee (Bombus occidentalis) was once common across the PNW, but has suffered steep losses in the last 20 years. It is one of the target species that the newly launched PNW Bumble Bee Atlas project is particularly interested in gathering information about. (Photo: Xerces Society / Rich Hatfield.)