Rare Bumble Bee Makes Comeback In Pacific Northwest

First Posted: Feb 10, 2016 10:41 AM EST

A rare bumble bee species might be making a comeback in the Pacific Northwest. In this recent study, researchers noted that "Bombus occidentalis," one of the rarest species in the Pacific Northwest, may be making a comeback in the area.

"The population seems at least to be reemerging where it hadn't been seen in the last 10 years," James Strange, of Utah State University and coauthor of the study, said in a news release. "There is some resilience in the population of 'Bombus occidentalis.' They do seem to be coming back."

Researchers found that the Nosema parasite is responsible for the bee's decline, however, it still remains an open case. Nosema is a small fungus that has a major effect on honey bees and other insects, where diseases become widespread, especially among adult bees. Researchers have been examining the factors and impacts of Nosema on "Bombus occidentalis," however it is difficult for laboratory studies to make these determinations.

"When we try to raise the bees in captivity, they die, so we can't do a lot of experimental work to show that this is really the thing [killing bees]," Strange said. "We have a lot of correlation, but we can never get the species without the pathogen. We can't clean this pathogen out."

The researchers' findings indicated that the wide spread of the pathogen may have stopped or the bees may have developed a resistance towards the virus.

The findings of this study were published in the Journal of Insect Science.

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