Endangered Species
Midwest Region



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Rusty Patched Bumble Bee Guidance

for Surveyors and Researchers


Photo by Jill Utrup; USFWS

Survey Protocols

The objectives of the survey protocols and monitoring framework are to:


(1) Find and document new rusty patched bumble bee locations;


(2) Determine if rusty patched bumble bees are still extant at previously documented locations;


(3) Monitor known populations to determine long-term population trends; and


(4) Provide protocol recommendations for areas that are outside of the areas where we believe rusty patched bumble bee still occurs.


View Online Map

Step 1. Use the online map to determine which zone your work is in: High Potential Zone, Low Potential Zone or Historic Range.



What is the purpose of your survey?

Step 2. Use the table below to determine the survey protocol that is recommended based on the “Purpose” and the “Zone” where your work is located.


Zone Purpose Recommended Protocol Scientific Recovery Permit Recommended Notes

High Potential

Presence/Absence for Project Review




High Potential

Presence/Absence for Recovery Purposes




High Potential

Population Monitoring




Low Potential

Presence/Absence for Recovery Purposes




Historic Range (Unoccupied)

Find new locations of B. affinis



If B. affinis is observed, stop survey and notify USFWS.

Historic Range (Unoccupied)

Other bee surveys

1, or other methods discussed in Section 4 of the Survey Guidance


If B. affinis is observed, stop survey and notify USFWS.


Step 3. Review the appropriate survey protocol (1-3) instructions in the “Survey Protocols” document found below. If needed, use ”Bumble Bee Survey Field Data Sheet” and “Data Reporting Spreadsheets” also provided below.


Step 4. If you are interested in assessing the quality of the habitat at your survey location, please see the Habitat Assessment Guide.


Applying for a Scientific Recovery Permit

If you are surveying for, plan to conduct research on, or plan to handle the rusty patched bumble bee in the High or Low Potential Zones, we recommend that you obtain a Scientific Recovery Permit. Found in Appendix A of the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee Survey Protocols, this guidance provides information on who should apply for a recovery permit, how to apply and surveyor qualifications.


Recovery permits are issued to allow for take as part of activities intended to foster the recovery of listed species. A typical use of a recovery permit is to allow for scientific research on a listed species to better understand the species' long-term survival needs. If you plan to conduct scientific research on rusty patched bumble bee, we recommend that you apply for a scientific recovery permit.


Appendix A – Obtaining a Scientific Recovery Permit under the Endangered Species ActAdobe PDF Icon March 20, 2017


Survey Locations  

We encourage people to do bee surveys. We are particularly interested in surveys near recent records of the rusty patched bumble bee (in or near High and Low Potential Zones), but are also interested in surveys across the entire historical range of the species. Bumble bee surveys can provide baseline data, even if rusty patched bumble bee are not present. Bumble bee community data and negative data (surveys where RPBB was not detected) is all important as we plan for recovery.


We are developing a map that depicts the areas where we would like surveys to occur – coming soon!


Photo Surveys

Anyone can take photographs of bumble bees! Help scientists record occurrences of the rusty patched bumble bee and other bumble bee species. For example, Bumble Bee Watch is a citizen science project to track and conserve North America’s bumble bees. Upload your photos of bumble bees and experts will verify identification and record the location.


The following citizen science sites have experts that verify your identifications:


Bumble Bee Watch

Bee Spotter



We need assistance from our partners to conduct or support key research. We know relatively little about some of the biological needs of the species, including the impacts of disease and pathogens, specific requirements for suitable nesting and overwintering habitat, regionally specific floral preferences; distance that workers forage; how far rusty patched bumble bee males and new queens travel to find suitable mates in the fall.  


Here are a few research topic ideas:

    • Nesting habitat needs
    • Overwintering habitat needs
    • Disease and pathogens
    • Floral preferences
    • Foraging distance
    • Dispersal of new queens and males
    • Effects of management practices on colony health
    • Effects of insecticides and fungicides

Rusty Patched Bumble Bee Home

Midwest Endangered Species Home


Last updated: December 2, 2017