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Franklin's Bumble Bee

SAVE THEM ALL: Today’s Endangered All-Star is on the brink of extinction, if not extinct already. Franklin’s Bumble Bee, once common, occupies a tiny area—an oval of around 190 miles—in southwestern Oregon and northern California, between the Pacific coast and the Sierra-Cascade mountains. Dr. Robbin Thorp, of the Department of Entomology at UC Davis, has surveyed the area annually since 1998. That year, he sighted around 100 Franklin’s but has seen the insect only once since 2004, telling physorg.com: “The last time I saw it was in August 2006 at Mt. Ashland when I spotted a single, solitary worker.” Thorp is also deeply concerned about several other bumble bee species: the Western bumble bee (Bombus occidentalis) and two related eastern species, the Rusty-patched bumble bee (B. affinis) and the Yellow-banded bumble bee (B. terricola). For more, watch Dr. Thorp’s archived webcast: Plight of a Bumble Bee. The multiplying threats and insult to the Franklin’s and other native bumble bees lie in the mass conversion of wild habitat to agriculture and other human use. What’s more, commercial populations of bumble bees have rapidly spread disease to native species. In 2009, Thorp and the Xerxes Society petitioned the U.S. government to regulate the movement of commercial bees and institute a certification program ensuring that the commercial insects are free from disease. So far, however, action has not been taken, and no protections for the Franklin’s or other native bumble bees have been put in place. The BBC is reporting that evidence has emerged indicating that the crash of native bees may be related to the loss of plant diversity. Bees consuming pollen from multiple plant sources are fatter and have healthier and more resilient immune systems than bees consuming from a single source, according to researchers at the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) in Avignon. Cedric Alaux told the BBC: “We found that bees fed with a mix of five different pollens had higher levels of glucose oxidase compared to bees fed with pollen from one single type of flower, even if that single flower had a higher protein content.”
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