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Franklin’s Bumble Bee Becomes “Wild Ghost”

No one has seen a Franklin’s Bumble Bee since 2006.

Ashland naturalist Pepper Trail writes in Jefferson Public Radio’s Jefferson Journal that the rarest bumble bee in the world may have become a “wild ghost,” a name given to animals and plants so rare they are believed extinct.

Trail writes about searching in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument east of Ashland, Ore., with the last person to see a living Franklin’s Bumble Bee, Dr. Robbin Thorp of the University of California. The bee traditionally ranged an area of about 190 miles north to south and 70 miles east to west.

Trail said the search with Thorp failed to spot any Franklin’s Bumble Bees, but yielded other bumble bee species with descriptive names like Yellow-Faced, Yellow-Headed, Two-Form, Fuzzy-Horned and Cuckoo.

Thorp believes the spread of diseases from commercial bumble bee colonies may explain the gradual disappearance of the ghost bee since 1998.

Trail writes, “…I haven’t given up on Franklin’s.  Its small range is mostly in the Siskiyou Mountains, where there are plenty of meadows and little valleys far from roads that have never been surveyed.”

Source: Trail, Pepper. "Jefferson Almanac: Hunting Wild Ghosts." Jefferson Monthly 40.6 (Sept-Oct 2016): 14-15. Print.

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.