Fort McCoy News Oct. 13, 2017

Surveys for endangered bumblebee

held at installation

Public Affairs Staff

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) listed the rusty patched bumblebee as endangered under the Endangered Species Act on March 21. Since then, researchers, biologists, and others have come to Fort McCoy to complete two bumblebee surveys looking for the species.

The surveys included people from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), and the USFWS, said Wildlife Biologist Tim Wilder with the Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division Natural Resources Branch.

Jill Utrup with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service captures a bee for identification during a bumblebee survey Aug. 8 at Fort McCoy.
Jill Utrup with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service captures a bee for
identification during a bumblebee survey Aug. 8 at Fort McCoy.
by Tim Wilder

A bumblebee is shown in a photo taken by Fort McCoy Endangered Species Biologist Tim Wilder on June 16.
A bumblebee is shown in a photo June 16. Photo by Tim Wilder

"This species of bumblebee was recently listed and when this occurred we realized we did not have sufficient data to determine which species occurred on the installation, including the rusty patched bumblebee," Wilder said. "Both biologists from the USFWS and WDNR were interested in surveying for the rusty patched bumblebee on the installation because of the high quality habitat found here."

There are approximately 20 species of bumblebees found in Wisconsin, Wilder said. At Fort McCoy, 11 of those species have been found, including the rusty patched bumblebee. Other species found include the two-spotted, half-black, black and gold, brown-belted, red-belted, yellow, tri-colored, boreal, and lemon cuckoo bumblebees.

Wilder was the first to discover a rusty patched bee while completing field work on South Post in early August.

"I was out showing a (co-worker) an area known for the Karner blue butterfly … and I ended up finding a rusty patched bee, which I was able to get some photos of," he said.

Rusty patched bumblebees live in colonies that include a single queen and female workers, according to the USFWS. The colony produces male bees and new queens in late summer. Queens are the largest bees in the colony, and workers are the smallest. All rusty patched bumblebees have entirely black heads, but only workers and males have a rusty reddish patch centrally located on the back.

The bees once occupied grasslands and prairies of the Upper Midwest and Northeast, but most grasslands and prairies have been lost, degraded, or changed because of other uses.

"Researchers have been finding these bees in several areas around Madison and in the Minneapolis area," Wilder said. "This year is the first year we've been looking for them at Fort McCoy. Now that we've found some, there is more research and work to do."

Wilder admitted that understanding what different species of bumblebees are out there has been a learning experience.

"Before this year, I didn't realize we had so many species of bumblebees at Fort McCoy, or in Wisconsin," Wilder said. "But it has been very educational and we are going to do our part here to help understand more about the species."

Now that the species is known to be found on Fort McCoy, Wilder said the natural-resources team will work together to find ways to further improve habitat.

"We'll also incorporate information about the rusty patched bumblebee into Fort McCoy's integrated natural-resources plan," Wilder said. "And we'll have more surveys take place here in the future. We'll look more for the bees this year, and more surveys are planned for next year."

For years, Wilder has been well-versed in managing endangered species on post. Most notable is his work with the Karner blue butterfly. The butterfly flourishes across many areas of the installation because much work has been done to ensure high quality habitat for the butterfly exists.

"And Fort McCoy has a lot of good habitat for this bee," Wilder said. "This installation, the military training activities that have occurred on the landscape for the past 100-plus years, and 50-plus years of natural resource management has provided habitat for many rare and endangered species."

For more information about the rusty patched bumblebee, visit the USFWS page about the bee at

For more information about endangered species and natural resources management, call 608-388-2252.

People can also learn more about wildlife at Fort McCoy by visiting the Natural Resources Branch interpretive area in the Permit Sales Office in building 2168.