Looking for the Endangered Rusty Patched Bumble Bee

Keep an eye out for the Endangered Rusty Patched Bumble Bee in Maine. Not only will you enjoy looking for them, you can help the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife keep track of them.

Haven’t Been Seen in Maine Since 2009

The official name is the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee (Bombus affinis). They are the first protected species with the U.S. Endangered Species Act. These are rare bumble bees. In fact, they have not been seen in the state since 2009. There has been a big decline in their population - up to 90% - since the 1990’s. But, they are important to our ecosystem. The Maine Warden Service says that up to 66% of the food we eat is pollinated by bees. They are also critical to wildlife and their habitat too.

How to Identify the Species

Here’s how we can help identify them and document it for the love of nature and for science. The first step is to be able to recognize and differentiate one species of bees from another. Look for the rusty color on their abs (yes, bees have abs). The abdominal part is a distinguishing feature on different species of bees. A rusty colored patch in the second section of the abs is a good sign you’ve found one. 

Document Your Discovery with a Photo Submission

Take a photo as close as you can get. Make it a good one so it is easy to see the details. A video is a good idea too. You might have some better views and can grab a screenshot. Submit your photos to the iNaturalist or Bumble Bee Watch. They have experts who will examine the images and document it for the record. You’ll find yourself looking around at bees more than ever. Maybe you’ll make a big discovery and can help the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee (Bombus affinis) thrive again in Maine.

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More Info and Bee Images

Read more about the various species of bumble bees in the state and the ways to discern one from another. The Maine Department of Inland Species and Wildlife have some images that help to see some of the subtle differences in bumble bees.

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