SEVERE WX : Red Flag Warning View Alerts
STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Bumblebee Blues: Pacific Northwest Pollinator in Trouble

Hundreds of citizen scientists have begun buzzing through locations across the Pacific Northwest seeking a better understanding about nearly 30 bumblebee species.

Posted: Jun 18, 2018 10:32 AM

By KEITH RIDLER , Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Hundreds of citizen scientists have begun buzzing through locations across the Pacific Northwest seeking a better understanding about nearly 30 bumblebee species.

Bumblebees, experts say, are important pollinators for both wild and agricultural plants, but some species have disappeared from places where they were once common, possibly because of the same factors that have been killing honeybees.

"It's really important for us as humans to study these species systems for animals that are the little guys that make the world go around," said Ann Potter of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, one of the entities in three states — Oregon and Idaho are the others — participating in the three-year Pacific Northwest Bumble Bee Atlas project.

Researchers hope to accumulate enough information to recommend ways to conserve bumblebees and their habitat.

"There's more and more interest in restoring habitat for pollinators," said Rich Hatfield of the conservation group, the Xerces Society.

Citizen scientists are being dispatched to selected 2.5-acre (1-hectare) sites with insect nets, plant and bee guides, and an app for smartphones so findings can be recorded, photographed, mapped and sent to a central database. Researchers say just more than 200 have signed on to visit 400 sites through the end of August. More volunteers are needed, Hatfield said, especially to work in more remote areas.

Bees are captured and put in a chilled cooler so they go into a state of lethargy. Diagnostic photos are taken, and the bees are released unharmed when they warm up.

Bumblebees, unlike honeybees, don't overwinter in a hive. Bumblebees build nests, typically in holes in the ground, and generally only number a few hundred individuals by the time fall arrives. Any honey they produce they consume.

With the arrival of winter, all bumblebees die except a few fertilized queen bees that in the spring head out alone to start a new nest and produce worker bees, beginning the cycle over.

"Here's a species that spends a big part of its life as a vulnerable queen," said Andony Melathopoulos of Oregon State University. Bumblebees have "this really fascinating solitary phase."

Honeybees are imports from Europe brought in as agricultural workers to pollinate crops. Native bumblebees also help pollinate crops. But when it comes to native North American plants and some crops, the more robust bumblebee with its ability to "buzz" pollinate by grabbing onto an entire flower and shaking the pollen loose is for some plant species the only insect up to the task.

The Western bumblebee, once considered common and widespread, has disappeared from much of its former range. Clues as to why Western bumblebee populations have plummeted are being sought in the current study.

"We really don't know a lot about them," said Ross Winton of Idaho Fish and Game. "The more we learn, the more concerned we get."

The Pacific Northwest Bumble Bee Atlas could ultimately be an example for other states interested in learning more about how bumblebees are doing.

"It is a model for other states," Melathopoulos said. "I think everyone is looking at the Pacific Northwest and this initiative as a test case."

The study is being paid for by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Idaho and Washington, and in Oregon by another government entity called the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research.

Collaborators include the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Idaho Fish and Game, Oregon State University, The Oregon Bee Project, the Oregon Department of Agriculture and the Xerces Society, an environmental group that works to conserve invertebrates.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 32994

Reported Deaths: 547
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah7204138
Marion469594
Washington454060
Umatilla298741
Clackamas242061
Malheur163327
Lane123417
Jackson11615
Deschutes85212
Yamhill76213
Jefferson5418
Polk53215
Linn52213
Morrow5056
Lincoln48213
Union4462
Benton3146
Wasco2963
Klamath2802
Hood River2520
Douglas2334
Clatsop2170
Josephine1982
Columbia1791
Coos1570
Baker942
Crook621
Tillamook530
Lake330
Curry310
Wallowa311
Sherman180
Harney120
Grant100
Gilliam80
Unassigned00
Wheeler00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 812711

Reported Deaths: 15633
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles2684556515
Riverside589321206
San Bernardino54482925
Orange534481216
San Diego46734776
Kern31994369
Fresno28441382
Sacramento22356406
Santa Clara21241314
Alameda21240406
San Joaquin20245441
Contra Costa16640206
Stanislaus16471356
Tulare15970263
Ventura12775150
Imperial11852317
San Francisco11195101
Monterey995372
San Mateo9897150
Santa Barbara9090113
Merced8872142
Kings765180
Sonoma7412122
Marin6730118
Solano640065
Madera453965
Placer358745
San Luis Obispo356229
Butte283344
Yolo281555
Santa Cruz23609
Sutter170511
Napa169013
San Benito134811
Yuba11537
El Dorado11304
Mendocino93418
Shasta88317
Lassen7400
Glenn5783
Tehama5735
Lake55511
Nevada5377
Colusa5316
Humboldt5088
Calaveras31714
Amador29616
Tuolumne2274
Inyo18815
Mono1662
Siskiyou1650
Del Norte1391
Mariposa752
Plumas500
Modoc270
Trinity160
Sierra60
Alpine20
Unassigned00
Medford
Clear
55° wxIcon
Hi: 97° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 55°
Brookings
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 61°
Crater Lake
Clear
39° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 39°
Grants Pass
Clear
46° wxIcon
Hi: 97° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 46°
Klamath Falls
Clear
39° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 39°
Hot and dry week, smoke returns
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events

Latest Video

Image

Possible housing solutions after wildfires

Image

Monday, September 28th Evening Weather

Image

Similarities in days had southern Oregonians on edge

Image

Monday, September 28 afternoon weather

Image

Monday, September 28 morning weather

Image

Sunday, September 27 evening weather

Image

Sunday, September 27 morning weather

Image

The initial spread of the Almeda Fire in real-time

Image

Saturday, September 26 evening weather

Image

Saturday, September 26 morning weather