LUREC restoration projects give new hope to endangered bumble bee species
This summer, IES Biodiversity Intern Kevin White encountered a newly endangered bee species at Loyola University Retreat and Ecology Campus (LUREC) while working on a pollination/pollinator research project. He became intrigued by the bee’s rusty orange patch on the top of its body. “I thought it was a more common species with a similar appearance, but something seemed different.” Kevin found the bee in an area designed for pollinators. This area contains native flowers, which provide a food source throughout the summer. He later learned that his bee sighting was indeed that of a Rusty Patched Bumble Bee.
The Rusty Patched Bumble Bee was once common from the eastern United States to the Midwest. Now, an estimated 95 percent population decrease has left isolated pockets, with a new population estimate of .1 percent. Habitat loss, fragmentation, and pesticide poisoning are considered contributors to the decline. LUREC’s miniature garden restoration projects are likely linked to the finding of the Rusty patched Bumble Bee.
“Pollination ecology is a fairly new field within ecology,” states Fr. Stephen Mitten, director of undergraduate research at LUREC. “This field is beginning to have a much greater significance as we notice the effects of toxins on the environment that impact butterflies, bees, and other pollinators essential for the human food supply.”
Kevin has seen this species again, a testament to the successful restoration work at LUREC. In addition, the restoration of LUREC’s prairie may also have an impact on the appearance of this new visitor. The prairie is maintained through controlled burns and seed collection. Dr. Roberta Lammers-Campbell, restoration director at LUREC, believes a search of the prairie would result in more sightings of this bee. If you’re interested in searching for LUREC’s endangered bee or want to participate in restoration, LUREC offers a restoration workday the second Saturday of every month.