Western Bumblebee (Bombus occidentalis)
Bumblebees are an important asset to the environment and to humans. While honeybees get a lot of credit for their pollination, native bees, such as bumblebees, are efficient pollinators that can pollinate plants that the honey bee cannot, like tomato plants! The Western Bumblebee is considered endangered as well as several other species of North American bumblebees. Pesticides, habitat loss, and climate change are all possible factors to the decline of bumblebees. If you want to see the Western Bumblebee in action, I have found them on the green gentian plants (Frasera speciosa) that are at the Black Tail Butte trail head.
Western bumblebees have three distinct color variations, depending on their geographic location, but you could possibly see more intermediate color variations in the field. Some scientists do believe that B. occidentalis and B. terricola are the same species, but there are other scientists that say they are two separate species. Because of the color variation in these bees, it would be hard to identify without a microscope. Read more about the Western Bumblebee at https://xerces.org/endangered-species/species-profiles/at-risk-bumble-bees/western-bumble-bee.
Written by Anna Cressman
PC: Anna Cressman