Rusty patch

A rare sighting of the rusty patch queen bee.

All hail the queen, she has arrived! A rare sighting has been made in Chanhassen.

I have been photographing bumble bees this summer and came across a variety of them such as the red belted, tri-colored, lemon cuckoo and brown belted.

On Aug. 5, I happened to photograph one of these lovely bumble bees on the edge of our Chanhassen property. Unable to identify this beauty, I forwarded pictures to the beelab.umn.edu (aka Bee Squad) the next morning. I received a reply back from a researcher at the Department of Entomology at the University of Minnesota saying it was quite a find; it was a queen rusty patched bumble bee.

Not only was it extremely rare, it is a federally protected endangered species. Wow!

I have since uploaded the sighting and location to bumblebeewatch.com. Bumble Bee Watch is a collaborative effort to track and conserve North American bees. My sighting has since been vetted/verified and posted.

I proceeded to dig in and research this regal queen. I located the U.S. Fish and Wildlife services website, which detailed facts on our Minnesota state bee. It claimed, “over the last 20 years, the rusty patched bumble bee has declined by 87 percent.”

Their habitat has declined “Due to intensive farming, disease, pesticides, and global climate change.” Grasslands all over the upper Midwest and Northwest, once home to the rusty patched bee are now “degraded” and “fragmented by conversion to other uses.”

Bumble bees are among the most important pollinators of crops, and are keystone species in most ecosystems. If you are passionate in helping out our fragile ecosystem, I urge you to check out for more information on how to identify and protect our bees. For instance go to BumbleBeeConservation.org. There are also many other resources online including ways to guide you through building a garden to attract pollinators right in your own backyard.

If you find some green space in your community, help protect that land. In this time of global warming, it is so important to save a field, woods, ponds from destruction that can never be replaced again. Gone are the animals and insects who have depended on that area. Gone are the people who have delighted in the feeling of seeing what nature can do to the human spirit.

While I can protect the bees on my property, next door to the north of us is a large tract that is likely a perfect habit for the bees. It is about to be transformed into a housing development, further destroying what little the bees have left.

If we all pitch in, we can help in the preservation of the lives of bees like the queen rusty patched I met earlier. “Long live the queen!”

Elizabeth Ahern

Chanhassen

Community Editor

Mark Olson, the Chaska and Chanhassen community editor who has worked in Carver County for 20 years, makes any excuse to write about local history. In his spare time, Mark enjoys perusing old books, watching blockbusters and taking Midwest road trips.

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