The last time anyone saw a Franklin’s bumble bee was the summer of 2006. But that doesn’t mean they’re not still out there.
As a team of three Fish and Wildlife Service Fellows, David, Akhil, and I are trekking into remote parts of the Oregon and Californian mountains in search of Franklin’s bumble bee. Most days start out at 7am, driving through narrow forest service roads. We navigate the steep, rocky, and bumpy terrain until we reach our destination: remote, flower-covered meadows – havens for bumble bees.
Once there, the search begins. We net bumble bees of every species we see, hoping to find a Franklin’s, Bombus franklini. We’re also looking for the western bumble bee, Bombus occidentalis, which has become exceptionally rare in this area. Both of these species are being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act. The work that we do will help inform the decision of whether or not these bees will ultimately be listed and granted the protections that come with an Endangered Species Act status. If they are listed, our work will also inform strategies to protect these species.
In the field, we capture bees of every species that we see and put them on ice. We let them chill just long enough for them to slow down so we can photograph and identify them, but not so long that they freeze. Once we’ve gotten photos, we place the bees on the ground so they can warm up, and we send them on their way. Although we haven’t found a western or a Franklin’s just yet, the season is still early. We’ve got plenty of summer left to find them.
Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Program: US Fish & Wildlife Service - DFP
Location: Portland Regional Office