Are Bumblebees endangered? Are they close to being extinct.

Asked April 21, 2020, 12:27 AM EDT

I can't find current info about whether bumblebees are endangered? Having trouble finding current ( within a year) information. I am writing a zine on Bumblebees and would like to be accurate. Thanks!

Multnomah County Oregon

1 Response

Thank you for your question. I wish I could give you simple answer however that is not the case. There are around 250 species of bumble bees (Bombus) worldwide so we can't make a one-size-fits-all answer. Some are not faring well and in other cases we have seen the distribution of some bumble bees expand.

The rusty patched bumblebee (Bombus affinis) is the first bumble bee to be officially listed as endangered. The western bumble bee (Bombus occidentalis) used to be abundant in the Willamette Valley but no longer.

A recent study out of the University of Ottowa suggests the likelihood of a bumble bee population surviving in any given place in North America has declined by 30% in the course of a single human generation. The researchers say the rates of decline appear to be consistent with a mass extinction.

That being said, notice the soft words - 'suggests', 'likelihood' and 'appear'. The researchers did not consult with the taxonomists whose data they used and the study lacks historical perspective. That doesn't mean their conclusion is wrong, but more research needs to be done.

It does appear from much of the research that has been done in recent years that like most organisms, there has been a decline in many bumble bee species numbers. That doesn't equate to 'near extinction' though. We don't have enough information. The Oregon Bee Atlas represents the first steps towards confronting the gulf in our knowledge about the bees of Oregon. In the first two years of the program, they have found specimens of bumble bees that have not been found in years.

I would suggest reaching out to Rich Hatfield at the Xerces Society in Portland who has done years of research on bumble bees

I applaud you in doing your research rather than what you read on blogs or in the media. Good Luck.