By MICHELLE BURGER/Montana State News

Researchers once thought the bumble bee population was on the rise in Montana, until the discovery of many new species. Researchers at Montana State University have classified over 28 species in Montana of the 250 found worldwide over the past five years. With the help of the Agriculture and Ecology Departments at MSU, a team of three researchers presented a paper about their findings in a popular science journal.

This paper, published in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America, AESA, describes how the growing population of bumble bees in Montana is now accounting for the widespread number of species of bumble bees currently present in our ecosystem.

Today, bumblebees and honeybees are mistaken for one another all the time. The honeybee is responsible for most of the honey made today. Bumble bees are more important regarding the pollination of wild plants like blueberries and other berries found in Montana.

With these two distinct species of bees, many believe since there are no honeybees, there must be no bumble bees.

“They are easily recognized by their large size and their colorful, hairy bodies,” according to the paper Bumble Bees in Montana.

Although the honey bee and the bumble bee share some qualities, mainly regarding pollination, they are often perceived differently.

“In fact, native bees are often more efficient than honey bees at pollinating many plants.” According to Bumble Bees in Montana reported about the differences most commonly argued about the species.

The bumble bee population for some species has fallen, and still is falling, in the recent years in Montana. A large factor that plays into this is the stress associated with urbanization and destruction of their natural habitat.

In recent years, researchers have been able to pinpoint the exact species and populations found in Montana.

According to the article from Montana State University’s Agriculture Department, “Montana is known to have the largest inventory of bumble bees showcasing the vast majority of types, which is record in the nation.”

Casey Delphia, a professor and researcher at MSU was one of the primary researchers for the paper “Bumble bees of Montana.” Researchers found many more species located in Montana compared to anywhere else in the nation.

The United States is home to 46 species of bumble bees. Of those 46 species, Montana documented 28 of them over the five years according to Bumble Bees of Montana.

These species were found in all 56 counties in Montana.

With so many bee populations on the decrease including the honey bee, which is crucial for some foods, MSU researchers aim to bring new knowledge and education to the community through their Center for Pollinator Research. They hope to bring some unwarranted fears of bees to a halt.

– edited by Emily Schabacker

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