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White-bottomed Bumble Bee Reappears After Two Decades

A bumble bee that is distinguished by its white bottom, Bombus occidentalis has not been seen since the 90’s has been spotted near Seattle and whole colonies have been found near Everett, Lynnwood, Tacoma and on the Olympic Peninsula.

The goal through a crowd-funding website is to figure out what’s going on with the recovery of the species. They aim to collect cell samples from bees in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, and British Columbia in collaboration with researchers from the University of Washington, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

“It’s kind of like DNA fingerprinting for bees,” said USDA entomologist James Strange to Seattle Times

Collecting the cell samples will not kill the bees — just a few milligrams are cut off from one of the legs for DNA analysis at the USDA’s Bee Biology and Systematics Lab in Utah.