- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
It's good to see so many people looking for the critically imperiled Franklin's bumble bee, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may soon list as “endangered” and provide protective status.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor entomology at UC Davis, has been tracking the elusive bumble bee since 1998. Its only known location is in a narrow range in northern California (Siskiyou and Trinity counties) and southern Oregon (Jackson, Douglas and Josephine counties).
He's seen it only once since 2006.
But now Robbin Thorp has a "posse" on the lookout for the elusive bumble bee.
After The News-Review, Douglas County, Ore., published a news story and photo of the bumble bee on Sept. 13, nearly two dozen people "called or wrote...to say they thought they had spotted Franklin's bee," wrote reporter John Sowell in the Oct. 12 edition.
Alas, it was not to "bee." Thorp identified the residents' photos as mostly the yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii.
"There are a lot of lookalikes out there," Thorp told Sowell.
Franklin's bumble bee, Bombus franklini (Frison), is mostly black with distinctive yellow markings on the front of its thorax and top of its head. It has a solid black abdomen with just a touch of white at the tip, and an inverted U-shaped design between its wing bases,In contrast, the yellow-faced bumble bee has a yellow face. its thorax and abdomen are mostly black but it has yellow band near the tip of the abdomen.
So, bottom line, if you see a bumble bee with yellow on its face and a yellow band at the tip of the abdomen, it's not our buddy, Franklin's bumble bee.
To check a puzzling identity, email your photo to Robbin Thorp at firstname.lastname@example.org
As Thorp told reporter Sowell: "The more eyes that are looking for it, the better it's going to be."
Franklin's Bumble Bee Still Elusive (Link to PDF of Douglas County Insect Sightings Create Buzz)
Franklin's Bumble Bee May Soon Be Listed as Endangered
Declining Bumble Bee Population Alarming
Robbin Thorp's Bumble Bee Research Yields Dickson Award
Mission to Save Franklin's Bumble Bee
California’s List of Endangered Species
Bumble Bees in Decline (Xerces Society)
Bumble Bees in California (UC Berkeley)
Watch Robbin Thorp's Webinar on bumble bees