Ore. survey finds rare bumblebees

Bumblebee Discovery
Rich Hatfield, field biologist with the Xerxes Society surveys for wild bees in an alpine meadow on Mount Hood, Ore. (Oregon Zoo/photo by Michael Durham)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A six-week survey of bumblebee species in Oregon’s Mount Hood National Forest has produced an encouraging find — a dozen of the increasingly rare western bumblebees.

An Oregon Zoo release says the inch-long, white-bottomed bee was once one of the most common pollinators in the West. But about 15 years ago, the zoo says they mysteriously disappeared west of the Cascade Mountains.

With funding from the zoo Foundation’s Future for Wildlife program, Xerces (ZERK-zees) Society biologist Rich Hatfield conducted the survey this summer. On week four, he found the western bumblebees near Timberline Lodge.

Hatfield says this discovery suggests that the species might have a chance to repopulate its range.

Scientists suspect a combination of disease and parasites in the dwindling of both wild and domesticated bees. Oregon officials blamed a pesticide for killing some 50,000 bumblebees in Wilsonville in June.

The Xerces Society is a nonprofit protecting invertebrates and their habitat.

— The Associated Press

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