There’s a new bee in town

White-tailed species ar­rives from Banff

Edmonton Journal - - FRONT PAGE - CODI WIL­SON Jour­nal Staff Writer ED­MON­TON

A buzz is cir­cu­lat­ing about a new species of bum­ble-bee, bom­bus mod­er­a­tus, that has been spot­ted in back­yards across Ed­mon­ton.

The fuzzy pol­li­na­tor has a dis­tinc­tive white bot­tom, and usu­ally prefers north­ern and moun­tain­ous re­gions. Al­though typ­i­cally found in Banff, north­ern B.C., the Yukon and Alaska, it was first dis­cov­ered in Ed­mon­ton this sum­mer.

David Wal­ter, a sci­en­tist at the Royal Al­berta Mu­seum, said he first stum­bled upon the species when his friend spot­ted a bum­ble-bee un­der his deck.

“He never no­ticed them be­fore,” Wal­ter said. “I did some re­search and fig­ured out what it was.” Wal­ter later saw one in his yard. “I had to see it in my own back­yard to be­lieve it,” he said with a laugh.

Some were spot­ted in Cal­gary in the past few years.

Matthias Buck, as­sis­tant cu­ra­tor at the mu­seum, said he isn’t sure why the mild-man­nered bees have come to Ed­mon­ton, but one pos­si­bil­ity is that a cool, wet sum­mer has made for suit­able con­di­tions.

An­other ex­pla­na­tion is that they are fill­ing a va­cancy af­ter other va­ri­eties of bum­ble-bees in the area have rapidly de­clined.

“Here we see a species that is ac­tu­ally do­ing well and ex­pand­ing its range … it’s good news,” Buck said. “Some bum­ble-bees are be­com­ing so rare they are on the brink of ex­tinc­tion.

The west­ern bum­ble-bee, which once flour­ished, is now scarce. It was fre­quently found in Bar­rier Lake and Cal­gary, but the pop­u­la­tion went into de­cline in the past 10 years.

Wal­ter said that dis­eased bees brought over from Europe may have con­trib­uted to the de­cline.

There are 20 species of bum­ble­bee in Al­berta and 50 in North Amer­ica.

Bum­ble-bees are so­cial in­sects

"You re­ally have to abuse bum­ble-bees to get stung by one."

Matthias Buck, RAM cu­ra­tor

that have a hi­er­ar­chy of work­ers. The en­tire species dies off when cold weather sets in, ex­cept for the young queens who hi­ber­nate.

When the queens emerge at the be­gin­ning of the sea­son, they work solo and find a nest to lay eggs. The worker bees hatch first and help to build. Once the work­ers are in place, the queen rarely leaves the hive.

Bum­ble-bees are not con­sid­ered ag­gres­sive and only the fe­males have stingers.

Buck said at this time of year, the bum­ble-bees peo­ple en­counter are mostly males, as they hatch at the end of the sea­son.

When bees ap­proach hu­mans, Buck said, it is be­cause they are in­quis­i­tive, not ag­gres­sive.

Of­ten times they are at­tracted to colour­ful cloth­ing.

“You re­ally have to abuse bum­ble­bees to get stung by one,” Buck said.

Bum­ble-bees feed off of the nec­tar of a va­ri­ety of plants and are es­sen­tial to pollinatin­g many plants and crops. They are ex­cel­lent for pollinatin­g toma­toes and pep­pers, and fre­quent gar­dens with clover and thyme.

The new winged res­i­dents are wel­comed by green thumbs.

Ed­mon­ton Hor­ti­cul­tural So­ci­ety pres­i­dent Jan Ogilvie said that “more bees are bet­ter.

“From a gar­dener’s per­spec­tive, in the cir­cle of life, the bee is a good thing. Those big, fluffy guys are just do­ing their thing for na­ture.”


The bom­bus mod­er­a­tus, a new bum­ble-bee to Ed­mon­ton, has been spot­ted in back­yards across the city. The in­sect is typ­i­cally found in Banff and the North.

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