This Rare Bumble Bee Is a 'Ghost in the Making'

Rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis)
File photo of a Rusty Patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis) in from Sky Meadows State Park at the edge of the Blue Ridge in N. Virginia.

USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab, Beltsville, Maryland / Commons Wikimedia / Public Domain

Clay Bolt is a conservation photographer on a mission. He has started an epic multi-year journey across North America to document our disappearing bees, with the hopes of photographing as many of the more than 4,000 species found on the continent. Among them is the rusty-patched bumblebee.

In a fascinating look at facts about bees, Bolt informed us that the rusty-patched bumble bee's numbers have dropped 87 percent in the past 15 years.

"This beautiful bumblebee and other closely related species have been inflicted with an internal pathogen that was introduced into North America when bumble bees imported from Europe to pollinate greenhouse tomatoes escaped into the wild and came in contact with wild bees. Believe it or not, despite all of the news that we hear about the decline of bees, there isn’t a single species out of the approximately 4,000 species of native North American bees that enjoy federal protection here in the U.S."

Fortunately, The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation has filed a petition to get the rusty-patched bumble bee added to the endangered species list, which would give it federal protections. But with the speed the species is declining, it's something that would have to happen as rapidly as possible. In the meantime, Bolt has journeyed to Curtis Prairie, a 75-year-old restored research site, with the hopes of documenting the species before it disappears. Here is a beautiful, informative, and often funny look at what it's like to hunt for a rare bee:

Learn more about Bolt's amazing project by visiting his website.