Determining the dietary preferences and population genetics of an endangered bumble bee, Bombus affinis, by maximizing the use of museum specimens

Science Center Objects

Bombus affinis, the rusty patched bumble bee, was federally listed as an endangered species in 2017 and has been identified as one of the top priority species for recovery nationally. Shortly after listing the species, partnering researchers and FWS prioritized the research needed to prevent the extinction of B. affinis. Some of the top research needs that were identified included determining the floral resource needs of the species and understand genetic population structure between extant and extinct populations.  In 2018, NPWRC partnered with US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Agricultural Research Service to 1) quantify floral preferences of B. affinis throughout its historic range, 2) map areas within the US that support the highest richness of preferred forage plants, and 3) estimate genetic diversity within and among multiple B. affinis populations. We will use novel genetic analyses and biological samples collected from preserved museum specimens to accomplish our objectives.  As of April 2018, we have collected samples from over 200 B. affinis specimens from museums across the U.S. and are preparing samples for genetic analysis.