Wednesday, April 14, 2010


An article by Kathy Keatley Garvey of March 2010

The article deals with the sightings of the imperiled Franklin bumblebee, so aptly names after Henry J. Franklin in 1921, who monographed the bumblebees of North America and South America in 1912-1913. UC DAVIS researcher Robbin Thorp reported he sighted 100 Franklin bumblebees in 1998. "The last time I saw it was in August 2006 at Mount Ashland, when I spotted a single, solitary worker." The Franklin bumblebee is a distinctive black faced insect splashed with yellow marking on its thorax and top of its head. "It has a solid black abdomen and a black inverted U-shaped design on its yellow thorax." Thorp thinks the bumblebee may be extinct and that other bumblebees are at risk of extinction.(

The decline, disappearance and possible demise of the Franklin bumblebee is closely linked to the widespread decline of native North American pollinators -"The loss of a native pollinator could strike a devastating blow to the ecosystem, economy and food supply. One of the main reasons that the Franklin bumblebee is at risk is because it has such a small geographical range. It has the most restricted distribution range of any bumblebee in North America - and possibly of the world. Its range is about 190 miles north to south and 70 miles east to west, in a narrow stretch between southern Oregon and northern California, between the coast and Sierra-Cascade ranges."

It is not just the Franklin bumblebee that is at risk but populations of the Western bumblebee/Bombus occidentalis and two close relatives in the East - the rusty patched bumblebee/Bombus affinis, and the yellow banded bumblebee/Bombus terricola, are rapidly dwindling as well.

Bumblebees commercially reared to pollinate greenhouse tomatoes, peppers and strawberries pollinate 15% of our food crops - valued at $3B. Wildlife, birds, elk, deer, bears etc.. depend on pollination of fruits, nuts, and berries for their survival. "We're disturbing, destroying and altering the habitat where the native pollinators exist." Thorp says.