Rusty Patched Bumble Bees Dying Out

Unless you’ve been hibernating with the bears this past year, you have heard the media talk about the possible extinction of bees.  For the first time ever, The U.S.  Fish and Wildlife Services have put a bumblebee on the endangered species list.  The Rusty Patched Bumble Bee (Bombus affinis) is now listed as endangered.


The Rusty Patched Bumble Bees once occupied the vast Mid-West and Northeastern United States.  Mostly in the grasslands and prairies, they are travelling further to find new habitats.  Below are a few different reasons why this specie has been dwindling.


Climate Change and Contemporary Farming:  More and more farms are using pesticides and other chemicals that are killing off our bees.  Bees usual habitats are underground, clumps of grass and/or undisturbed soil. This is where the Queen Bee will hibernate in winter as well.  The worker and male bees are only around April through September and then die out.  Due to the increase of population and need for more housing, farms are being demolished and with that nowhere for the colonies to habitat.   Disease is also part of the reason for the demise of the bumble bee.


In order for the bees to exist, they need to reproduce.  In spring, the queens start collecting pollen and nectar and then lay eggs.  The eggs are fertilized by sperm from last fall.   Worker bees hatch from the first eggs.  These worker bees are the defenders of the colony, care for the young bees and forage for food.  The Queen stays with the nest and continues to lay eggs throughout the seasons.  Late in Summer, those eggs will hatch new queens and males to form other colonies.

Illustrations of a rusty patched bumble bee queen (left), worker (center), and male (right).
By Elaine Evans, The Xerces Society.

Pollination is very important to our society.  Pollination allows for the generation of seeds to make new plants and flowers.  The bees take nectar and pollen from one flower/plant to another.  Plants have both female and male parts and one of each is needed to grow a new plant.


How can you help? 

  1. Add plant pollinator friendly gardens, native plants and flowering trees/shrubs to your yard.
  2. Limit all chemicals and pesticides. 
  3. Provide natural uncut areas over the winter for the bees to hibernate.




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