Rare bumblebee found in southern Oregon, northern California gets endangered species listing

Franklin’s bumble bee (Bombus Franklini). Photo by James P. Strange, USDA-ARS Pollinating Insect Research Unit.

The Franklin's bumblebee has a very small range limited to this region, and is believed to be on the verge of extinction if not already extinct.

Posted: Aug 23, 2021 11:05 AM
Updated: Aug 23, 2021 11:25 AM

MEDFORD, Ore. — A dwindling species of bumblebee unique to southern Oregon and parts of northern California will now be recognized for federal protections under the Endangered Species Act by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency revealed on Monday.

The Franklin's bumblebee (Bombus franklini) is believed to reside across Douglas, Jackson, and Josephine counties in Oregon, as well as Siskiyou and Trinity counties in California. This relatively small range makes it one of the most narrowly distributed bumblebee species in the world.

Wildlife officials believe that that the species may still exist in the region, though the last confirmed sighting occurred back in 2006. The U.S. Forest Service cited the Fender's blue butterfly as an example of a species that was believed extinct for decades, but was spotted again in Oregon during 1989. The species has since started to recover.

“Protecting native bees like Franklins’ bumblebee will help ensure our native plants, gardens and crops will continue to have an adequate supply of pollinators,” said Robyn Thorson, USFWS Columbia Pacific Northwest Regional Director. “We have hope that this bee will be seen again as we continue to work in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and researchers to locate them and manage their habitat.”

In its final rule, USFS determined that setting aside critical habitat for the Franklin's bumblebee was "not beneficial and, therefore, not prudent" because disease or other man-made factors, including pesticides, are likely the primary threat to the species. The Center for Biological Diversity countered that this ruling hinges on a Trump-era regulatory change that environmental groups are currently challenging in federal court, which the Center says does not take into account how habitat plays a role in protecting species from other threats.

“Franklin’s bumblebee is one of the rarest in the world, and it will surely tumble into extinction without Endangered Species Act protections,” said Quinn Read, Oregon policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This is a good step for these bumblebees, but the federal failure to protect critical habitat will make recovery an uphill battle. There’s just no way to save species like this unique bumblebee without protecting the places they live.”

The Franklin's bumblebee is believed to nest underground in abandoned rodent burrows and other spaces that allow room for shelter and food storage. One colony was discovered in a residential garage in Medford. The USFWS said that the bees have historically been found at elevations between 540 and 7,800 feet, often finding food among the colder climates of alpine flowering plants.

“The level of public and interagency engagement in the bumble bee survey efforts has been incredible,” said Glenn Casamassa, the U.S. Forest Service's Pacific Northwest Regional Forester. “The primary habitat for this bee in Oregon is on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. While this species has not been detected there since 2006, our employees continue to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on sampling historic and suitable habitats in order to conserve and recover this species. There’s a collective sense of urgency to protect native pollinators, and this effort highlights not only the strength of our interagency partnerships but also the strength of research and citizen science efforts in Southwest Oregon.”

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 362561

Reported Deaths: 4334
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah56445713
Washington39207326
Marion37314457
Clackamas30208312
Lane28166308
Jackson23297314
Deschutes20819125
Umatilla14616151
Linn13198132
Douglas12294251
Josephine9476198
Yamhill8868114
Klamath8194122
Polk750281
Malheur570079
Benton562431
Coos512396
Columbia388944
Jefferson382456
Lincoln325540
Union322950
Crook298146
Wasco293341
Clatsop245528
Baker205229
Tillamook198333
Hood River196637
Morrow187123
Curry182925
Harney114927
Grant100813
Lake96112
Wallowa69512
Gilliam1624
Sherman1603
Wheeler1081
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 4854041

Reported Deaths: 71417
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles148510526549
Riverside3716705041
San Diego3678574183
San Bernardino3586775720
Orange3251235578
Sacramento1596362313
Kern1472941652
Fresno1463182094
Santa Clara1455431897
Alameda1206921415
San Joaquin1027761721
Ventura1010381167
Contra Costa1000181008
Stanislaus862991335
Tulare80375978
San Francisco54440649
San Mateo54168623
Monterey50911586
Solano46063341
Santa Barbara45223523
Merced42422581
Sonoma40997404
Placer39435429
Imperial36071766
Kings32938325
San Luis Obispo29973333
Madera23955285
Shasta23924352
Butte23818273
Santa Cruz21034221
Yolo20397248
Marin17706244
El Dorado17207149
Sutter13937175
Napa12898100
Yuba1011582
Tehama9534110
Humboldt9269109
Nevada916790
Mendocino766787
Lassen758747
San Benito744972
Tuolumne691790
Lake6631105
Amador547364
Siskiyou451246
Glenn438433
Calaveras391481
Del Norte358742
Colusa307618
Inyo214241
Mono16723
Plumas16607
Mariposa133916
Trinity88011
Modoc6895
Sierra1880
Unassigned1460
Alpine1050
Out of CA00
Medford
Partly Cloudy
56° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 56°
Brookings
Partly Cloudy
62° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 62°
Crater Lake
Partly Cloudy
56° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 56°
Grants Pass
Mostly Cloudy
56° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 56°
Klamath Falls
Partly Cloudy
45° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 45°
Warmer and brighter Thursday
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events