In the 1970’s, the unusual loss of several colonies of bees across the United States led to a bit of a panic among scientists and farmers. It seemed that there was a global crisis in the making. That scare was mined by science fiction authors and moviemakers, even as recently as the 2008 film, The Happening. Ultimately, in real life, it was discovered that the so-called “Disappearing Disease” had been recorded as far back as the 17th century and was part of the normal cycle of bee colony life, albeit a rarer occurrence.
Here at Good News Pest Solutions, we deal with and study a lot of different insects and bugs – yes, they are two different things – and one of our favorites has always been the humble bumblebee. While they don’t produce enough honey to harvest, they are excellent pollinators, especially for wildflowers and cranberry bushes, and you could call them the original AirBnB-ers, reusing mouse holes, compost heaps, and piles of leaves for their homes.
Unfortunately, one science fiction nightmare is coming true. Bombus affinis, also known as the rusty patched bumblebee, has now been placed on the endangered list. The rusty patch bumblebee is a native to North America, at one time blanketing the upper Midwest. But their numbers have been declining since 2003. By 2014, the state of Vermont and then Canada declared the bombus affinis an endangered species. Now, after an estimated 87% decline, as tracked by the Xerces Society, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service has given the species endangered status.
Unfortunately, the biggest threat to Bombus affinis is other bumblebees. In the 90’s, several efforts were made to commercialize the bumblebee populations for better crop pollination. One such effort involved shipping queens of two species of bumblebees, Bombus occidentalis and Bombus impatiens to breeding facilities in Europe. The resulting colonies were then shipped back to farms in the United States. Recent studies have theorized that these colonies were infected by wild European bees in the same facility and brought the disease back to North America, devastating bee populations that had not built up a natural resistance.
Additionally, all bumblebees are at risk from pesticides and environmental encroachment (that’s a big phrase for the problems caused when we keep building more stuff). Even the farmers bumblebees are meant to help and the fertilizers they spread can have a negative effect on the bumblebee population. Planting more crops leaves less space for milkweed and other wildflowers that the bumblebees rely on for the feeding of the colony.
The easiest way to identify the Bombus affinis is by their unique markings. Unlike the round markings on the back of most bumblebees, the rusty patched bumblebees have an almost mushroom shape, that tapers to a V in their back.
So what can you do? The rusty patched bumblebee is seldom found in Florida, but in general, just leave bumblebee nests alone. Except for the queens, the bee colony dies off each season, and bumblebees in general are not that aggressive, so just relax and let them go about their way. And when more tips are offered, we’ll be the first to let you know!
Here at Good News Pest Solutions, we care about the environment and endeavor to use cutting-edge, natural, eco-friendly pest control measures that are safe for our earth and you, while being highly effective at controlling pests. If you are looking for a green pest control company, look no further! You have found the Gulf Coast’s leader in natural pest control; contact us today!
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