Return of long-absent bumblebee near Seattle stirs scientific buzz

Photo Credit:  Ano Lobb Photo Credit: Ano Lobb

The long-absent western bumblebee, known to scientists as Bombus occidentalis, has been sighted in Washington state. This native bumblebee species, valued as a key pollinator for tomatoes and cranberries, experienced a dramatic population crash, all but vanishing from nearly all of its natural range. Last year, however, a single western bumblebee was discovered for the first time in over a decade west of the Cascades. Bombus occidentalis is one of four wild North American bumblebee species whose populations began to plummet twenty ago. This decline could be due to parasites, pesticides and habitat fragmentation. Unfortunately, many bees are still experiencing population decline, and recent studies have cited neonicotinoid pesticides as a dominating factor in colony deaths.