Scientists Find Rarest US Bumblebee Again After 55 years.

© G. Ballmer, UC Riverside

It's not all bad news for bees these days. We've already heard how a rare species of bumblebee was rediscovered in Scotland after 50 years. And now, despite huge declines in North American bumblebee populations, we hear that University of California, Riverside scientists have rediscovered the rarest bumblebee in the United States over 55 years since the last specimen was found:

Known as "Cockerell's Bumblebee," the bee was originally described in 1913 from six specimens collected along the Rio Ruidoso, with another 16 specimens collected near the town of Cloudcroft, and one more from Ruidoso, the most recent being in 1956. No other specimens had been recorded until three more were collected on weeds along a highway north of Cloudcroft on Aug. 31, 2011.

"Most bumblebees in the U.S. are known from dozens to thousands of specimens, but not this species," said Douglas Yanega, senior museum scientist at UC Riverside. "The area it occurs in is infrequently visited by entomologists, and the species has long been ignored because it was thought that it was not actually a genuine species, but only a regional color variant of another well-known species."

Sarah Simpson from Discovery News picks up on why the Cockerell's Bumblebee rediscovery is big news but also, perhaps, why we shouldn't be surprised:

Cockerell’s Bumblebee, among nearly 50 species of bumblebees native to the U.S., has avoided many of these threats, living on protected national forest and tribal lands. For that reason, it is not especially surprising for an insect species to be rediscovered after decades, when people might otherwise imagine that it may have gone extinct.

From supermarkets creating pollinator-friendly purchasing policies to solar power stations that nurture bees too, recent years have seen a huge upswing in significant initiatives to increase habitats and promote better health among wild and domesticated bee populations. Let's hope that means many more rediscoveries like this will be on the way.

Tags: Bees | Biodiversity | Conservation | Insects | New Mexico | United States

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