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Endangered Species Program
Conserving and restoring threatened and endangered species and their ecosystems
Rusty Patched Bumble Bee Guidance
for Surveyors and Researchers
The objectives of the survey protocols and guidance 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 bumblebee 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.
Step 3. Review the appropriate survey protocol 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.
If you complete a Habitat Assessment form, please submit to the USFWS Field Office near you. These forms are useful for land managers to assess their property and learn more about rusty patched bumblbe bee habitat needs and stressors, but they are also being used by the Service to determine areas to direct focus and funding for habitat enhancement and expansion.
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.
We encourage people to survey for bees. 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 rusty patched bumble bee was not detected) is all important as we plan for recovery.
Map of Priority Survey Areas - This map is a guide for bee surveyors who have some discretion on survey locations. The map shows areas of most interest for rusty patched bumble bee surveys, ranked by priority.
How to Report Survey Results
We encourage folks to submit data using our spreadsheets. Using the spreadsheets simplifies data entry to our geodatabase and helps ensure that folks are collecting data that will be useful even if you did not conduct a formal survey (e.g, date, location, flower use, other species observed, etc.) . We also have field data sheets that people can use (it has the same fields as the spreadsheet, but in a printable format that may be easier for folks to use in the field). Please submit your xls forms to USFWS Field Office near you.
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:
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.
See also Preventing Extinction Priorities - Service biologists are working with bumble bee and conservation biology experts to identify and carry out actions that can stop the downward spiral of this species and prevent its extinction, including identifying priority research needs.
Here are a few research topic ideas:
Last updated: October 9, 2018