Science-- there's something for everyone

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A rediscovered bumblebee

Here’s a bit of good news about bees.  Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have rediscovered an extremely rare bumblebee that hasn’t been seen in over fifty years.  The Cockerell’s Bumblebee was discovered in 1913 and, until its rediscovery in August of this year, hadn’t been encountered since 1956. 


A Cockerell’s Bumblebee.
Credit: G. Ballmer, UC Riverside

Not only is the Cockerell’s Bumblebee rare today, it was never abundant.  Only 23 specimens had ever been found, all within about 300 square miles in the White Mountains of New Mexico.  In fact, entomologists once thought the bee was merely a color variant of a more common bumblebee. Genetic tests have now shown the bee to be a unique species, though little is known about how it makes its living.

Considering the widespread die-outs of many bee populations in recent years, I think it’s nice to hear about a bee that made a come back.