Idaho Fish and Game and its conservation partners are collecting field observations of bumblebees. This undated photo shows a western bumblebee (Bombus occidentalis) landing on Canada goldenrod.

BOISE — The Pacific Northwest is home to nearly 30 species of bumblebees and many of them face an uncertain future. As part of the Pacific Northwest Bumble Bee Atlas Project, Idaho Fish and Game and its conservation partners are collecting field observations of bumble bees. The goal is to map bumblebee populations in the Pacific Northwest, but they can’t do it alone.

“Washington, Idaho and Oregon are large, and we need an army of trained volunteers equipped with cameras to help survey the entire region,” Rich Hatfield, senior conservation biologist at the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, said in a statement.

In recent years, all pollinators have been recognized for their essential role in keeping our environment healthy and contributing to successful harvests on farms. Much attention has been given to the plight of the introduced European honey bee. Less publicized, but no less important, is the parallel decline of native wild bee populations — particularly bumblebees.

While this project will target all species of bumblebees, there are three species whose population declines are of particular concern: the western bumblebee (Bombus occidentalis), Morrison’s bumblebee (Bombus morrisoni) and the Suckley cuckoo bumble bee (Bombus suckleyi).

One of the goals of the project is to better understand where bumblebee species occur in remote parts of the region. Much of what we currently know about bumblebee distributions is focused on places where people live or travel such as towns, cities and near roads.

Getting better information about which species of bumblebees occur in remote areas will help researchers track these species and understand what types of habitat they are associated with, ultimately supporting the conservation of the most at-risk species.

For more information on ways to participate, contact Fish and Game biologist Joel Sauder at 208-750-4223 or email joel.sauder@idfg.idaho.gov.

For videos on how to net, handle and photograph bumble bees, go to the Xerces website at bit.ly/2IWofNy.

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