Species Status: Special Concern (COSEWIC assessment; Special Concern in Ontario, Vulnerable globally (IUCN assessment)
Action Required: Conservation breeding, population augmentation, reintroduction
The serious decline of bees has generated a lot of buzz lately — and with good reason. Ninety per cent of all flowering plants need pollinators such as the yellow-banded bumble bee to reproduce.
Their ability to fly in cooler temperatures and lower light levels sets these expert pollinators apart from many other types of bees. Yellow-banded bumble bees use a technique called “buzz pollination,” where the bee grabs hold of a flower in its jaws and vibrates its wings to shake loose pollen that would otherwise be inaccessible.
Because they use nectar and pollen as their source of fuel, protein and nutrients, yellow-banded bumble bees love habitats that offer plenty of flowers. This can include meadows, grasslands, wetlands, forests and farms.
Like the rusty-patched bumble bee, the yellow-banded bumble bee was a common species until quite recently. It was once found throughout much of central North America — ranging from Newfoundland and the Maritimes, west to eastern British Columbia, north into the Northwest Territories and Yukon, and south to North Carolina. However, its numbers have drastically declined since the 1990s, and it has not been seen in most parts of its U.S. range since 1999. Approximately 50-60% of the global range of this species occurs in Canada.
Scientists have not pinpointed the reasons for the rapid decline of such a widespread and common pollinator. At the local level, pesticide use, habitat loss and increased competition with other species like the European honeybee contribute to declines. Range-wide factors may include climate change and infections carried by commercial bees.
Recommended Recovery Actions
In 2016, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) assessed the yellow-banded bumble bee as a species of Special Concern. Ontario officially designating the species as Special Concern the same year. However, formal recovery strategies have yet to be developed. In the meantime, experts call for habitat restoration and continued surveys to track population size and distribution.
What We Are Doing
Find out how Wildlife Preservation Canada is helping save native pollinators, including the yellow-banded bumble bee, and how you can make a difference.
Federal Species at Risk Profile: Yellow-banded Bumble Bee