Will Peterson, a writer, photographer, and self-described ‘bee nerd’ has the entomologist world buzzing these days.
Last summer in the Puget Sound region of Washington, Peterson espied a rare Western bumblebee. The Western bumblebee had effectively disappeared from the face of the Earth during the 1990s. The stark population decline baffled scientists for years, with many hypotheses about the cause of the decline, but without many answers.
However, when Peterson spotted the ‘six-legged Bigfoot,’ as he calls the bug, it was not an optical illusion: soon, other citizen scientists across America began to send in their own reports of Western bumblebee sightings.
Western bumblebees are vital to the economy, as they are the main pollinators of plants such as tomatoes, cranberries, and blueberries. In 2006, a USDA survey revealed the Western bumblebee had vanished from more than 30 percent of its natural range, and was particularly absent from the Northwest territories west of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountain ranges.
Peterson and a group of volunteers have subsequently confirmed active colonies in four locations throughout Washington: near Everett, Lynnwood, Tacoma and on the Olympic Peninsula.