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Rusty Patched Bumble Bee



 Photo Credit: Caroline Hlohowskyj

What’s all that buzz about? Me, the rusty patched bumble bee! I must get pollen for the queen, you see. I zip and dance and bounce on flowers, eating up pollen and nectar, nothing too sour. I don’t plan to use my stinger on you - I’ve got better things to do.

Do you like tomatoes, cranberries or apples? Well I'm a key pollinator and without me, you wouldn't have these. From native wildflowers to vital crops, I make sure that pollen drops!

But I've lost many of my friends and can't do this work alone.

The rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis) is historically common and broadly distributed throughout eastern North America and the upper Midwest. However, the population has recently experienced a 95% decline in abundance due to pathogen spillover, habitat loss, and pesticide use.

The rusty patched bumble bees have been spotted in woodlands, grasslands, agricultural landscapes, and more recently, residential parks and gardens. Queens emerge from hibernation in early spring and their colonies are among the last to begin hibernation for the winter.


  • The rusty patched bumble bee performs “buzz pollination,” producing strong in-flight vibrations that dislodge tightly packed- and otherwise inaccessible-pollen from a flower's anther.

  • Bumble bees are different than honey bees because they are larger, fuzzier and live in smaller colonies that only last one year.

  • While female bumble bees can sting, they are quite docile and will only sting if their colony is disturbed or if they are individually threatened.



Plant a garden. Even a few pots can help.

Bumble bees have experienced a dramatic population decline and need thriving gardens to survive. The best way to help the bumble bee is to ensure that you have flowers that bloom in the early spring and late fall; avoid use of insecticides; and contribute to citizen science monitoring programs such as Bee Spotter!


Chicago Wilderness works with our lead partner, Chicago Academy of Sciences Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, to drive rusty patched bumble bee conservation efforts. They, in turn, coordinate with numerous other organizations across the region. The bumblebee conservation effort is part of the Chicago Wilderness Priority Species Focus Area.


Sources: Xerces SocietyIUCN Red ListUS Fish and Wildlife Service