Endangered Rusty Patched Bumble Bee Species Found in Story County
7/30/2021 (Ames, Iowa) — An endangered rusty patched bumble bee was recently found in Ames, Iowa by Prairie Rivers of Iowa Watersheds and Wildlife Coordinator David Stein. This is significant as it is the first photographed find in Ames since the last verified sighting occurred back in 2018.
“I am beyond excited we were able to find such a rare species, especially after a few years of not having any verified records,” said Stein. “The Ames and Boone population of rusty patched bumble bees is smaller and more isolated than those in Eastern Iowa. They’re on the edge of its natural range making rescue and conservation efforts for them in Central Iowa vital,” Stein relates.
On January 10, 2017, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service placed Bombus affinis, commonly known as the rusty patched bumble bee, as the first bee species in the continental United States on the endangered species list. The species has declined by about 87% during the last 20 years and now only inhabits 0.1% of their original range. According to Stein, the main drivers for the decline are habitat loss, pesticide use and pathogens.
As a major part of our programming efforts, Prairie Rivers of Iowa is working with landowners, local government and other organizations to restore bumble bee, other pollinator and wildlife habitat. “Now that we know that the rusty patched bumble bee is still here and where its range might extend, we are stepping up our outreach and educational efforts to insure more habitat is in place,” Stein explains.
Prairie Rivers has pollinator garden planning services available to landowners throughout the year and seasonally operates a free native seed bank. Another related effort to encourage Ames citizens to plant native vegetation and restore habitat is the city’s cost share rebate available through their Smart Watersheds program. “This is exciting news. We enjoy working with Prairie Rivers and their pollinator program to increase native vegetation and habitat throughout Ames, including in our parks and storm water projects,” says City of Ames Municipal Engineer Tracy Peterson.
According to Stein, “Planting their favorite flowers along with several species that can bloom between March and October is necessary to care for the rusty patched bumble bee. They have an affinity for Joe-Pye weed, bee balm and both yellow and anise hyssop and seem to prefer areas near rivers and streams.”