Native bee species spotted for first time since ’90s

white butt beeWill Peterman snapped the “Bigfoot” shot July 7: a blurred image of a creature so rare that many experts feared it had been wiped out in Washington.

But even out of focus, there was no mistaking the feature that distinguishes the Western bumblebee from other species in the Northwest.

“White butt,” Peterman explained.

On Tuesday, he returned to the tiny park in Brier, northeast of Seattle, where he took the first picture. This time, he captured a sharp portrait of a fat, fuzzy, white-bottomed Bombus occidentalis foraging in a blackberry hedge.

“There was some shouting,” Peterman said, recalling his excitement. On Sunday, he and a group of biologists and bee enthusiasts from the University of Washington made a more systematic sweep through the park and nearby areas.

The group didn’t locate the colony’s nest, but they did spot a solitary queen.

“We got scads more pictures,” Peterman said.

The discovery of what may be the only population of Western bumblebees in the state has raised hopes that the species could be making a comeback.

“The best case scenario is that this turns out to be a strain … that’s actually resistant to whatever it is that knocked them back in the first place,” Peterman said.

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