White-bottomed Bumble Bee Reappears After Two Decades
There’s been a lot of news recently about problems with insect pollinators, but a story from the state of Washington may leave some room for optimism.
A bumble bee that can be distinguished by its white bottom, Bombus occidentalis, has been spotted near Seattle, where they haven’t been seen since the mid 1990s.
Will Peterman, a writer and photographer, spotted and photographed one of the bees during the summer of 2013. Since then, lots of other people in the area have been reporting sightings. In fact, they’ve even found whole colonies near Everett, Lynnwood, Tacoma, and on the Olympic Peninsula.
“At the top of our list is figuring out what’s going on with the recovery — if it really is a recovery,” Peterman told the Seattle Times.
In order to do that, he and some others are trying to raise money through a crowd-funding website.
The goal is to collect cell samples from bees in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, and British Columbia in collaboration with researchers from the University of Washington, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
Collecting the cell samples will not kill the bees — just a few milligrams are cut off from one of the legs for DNA analysis at the USDA’s Bee Biology and Systematics Lab in Utah.
“It’s kind of like DNA fingerprinting for bees,” said USDA entomologist James Strange.
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