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Conservationists haven't given up on Franklin's bumble bee

Noah Camuso
Over 70 people searched for Franklin's bumble bee on Mt. Ashland on Tues. July 12th. The crowd was made up of biologists from state and federal agencies, volunteers of conservation groups, local landowners and citizen scientists. It was the largest turnout for Bee Blitz in the event's history.

This week, over 70 people are searching in and around Mt. Ashland for Franklin’s bumble bee. The bee was last seen 16 years ago, but it’s hard to tell if the species is extinct.

Attendees scoured Mt. Ashland for Franklin's bee on Tuesday during the annual Bee Blitz, which runs through July 15. Franklin's was last seen in 2006 by Dr. Robbin Thorpe, who died in 2019.

Bee enthusiasts fanned out into the meadows of Mt. Ashland with bug nets in hand. Turnout for this year's Bee Blitz was the biggest in the event's history, which has been going on for more than a decade, according to US Fish and Wildlife Biologist Jeff Everett.

“If we can locate Franklin's on the landscape, we can not only bring more meaningful conservation tools to protect and recover the species, but we can also learn more about why it was here and take some of those lessons and apply them to other at-risk pollinators,” Everett says.

Franklin’s bumble bee has the smallest distribution of any bumble bee in the world occupying only five counties in Southern Oregon and Northern California. Biologists don't know why the distribution of the bee is so small, or why the species population declined so sharply. The bee was listed as endangered in 2021 under the federal Endangered Species Act.

According to Everett, the best ways to help bees is to plant native wildflowers and avoid pesticide use.

Noah is a broadcast journalist and podcast producer who was born and raised in Salem, Oregon. He came to Jefferson Public Radio through the Charles Snowden Program of Excellence after graduating with a BS in journalism from the University of Oregon. In his spare time, Noah enjoys backpacking, scuba diving and writing music.