What YOU Can Do:
- Watch A Ghost in the Making: Searching for the Rusty-Patched Bumble Bee by Clay Bolt and get inspired to help protect bumble bees and other native pollinators in your own community!
- What can you do in your backyard to make a difference? Plant native wildflowers in your backyard, avoid spraying pesticides, and leave some untended areas for bees to nest in. In a short period of time, you’ll be amazed by the number of interesting bees that will turn up in your garden.
–1Frame4Nature is a collection of images and stories from around the globe of your personal connection to nature. However small, when combined with the actions of others, your individual actions can impact real and tangible outcomes for the preservation of our planet. Submit your story now!
iLCP Fellow Clay Bolts‘s 1Frame4Nature: Bumble Bee Lessons, Leaps of Faith
Throughout my life, I’ve occasionally felt a déjà vu kind of love for certain people, places, and things that I’ve never actually encountered before. Let’s call them les déjà aimés or the already loved.
There have been quite a few of these special first-encounters throughout my life: the first eastern box turtle that ever crossed my path; the tadpole filled pond in the woods behind my grandfather’s house; and the blue swell of the Southern Blue Ridge. When I laid my eyes upon a rusty-patched bumble bee for the first time, that old familiar feeling presented itself once again, immediately filling me with a deep surge of compassion for this little bee with an oxidized, orange kiss of color.
My first real sighting of this once common bee wasn’t in the wild, but as a specimen in the zoological collection at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 20 years ago, its kind buzzed across rich wildflower meadows and backyards throughout much of eastern North America. But, in the early 2000s, its range began to recede to a mere 10% of where it once was found. Chances are I might have even seen it when I was a kid, but my own children hadn’t been afforded that opportunity.
I decided in that moment that I would do everything in my power to help the rusty-patched bumble bee have a fighting chance for survival.
As a conservation photographer, I’m well aware of the powerful role that photos can play in bringing more awareness to the plight of a species, but protecting an insect has unique challenges. When my mission began, not a single species of native North American bee, out of nearly 4,000, was protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In fact, at that time only 76 species out of 700 on the Endangered Species List happened to be insects. Undoubtedly, it would be an uphill battle.
My first step was to work with partners at the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and friends at Day’s Edge Productions to produce a film on the plight of the rusty-patched bumble bee. We then screened the film around the country, including an amazing moment where I spoke during a congressional briefing on Capitol Hill. In tandem, we also created a petition that gathered nearly 130,000 signatures in support of protecting the bee, which were delivered to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
In March of 2017, nearly two years after the process began, our efforts paid off and the USFWS officially listed the rusty-patched bumble bee as an endangered species.
Reading back over my proceeding words, this brief description makes the process seems so simple. Yet, they do little to truly express the Herculean effort put forth by so many people to protect such a small, but irreplaceable creature.
Initially, I knew absolutely nothing about the rusty-patched bumble bee other than the knowledge that it was in trouble. But I went to work, learning along the way, consulting with experts, and using my voice to speak up for a creature that wasn’t able to speak for itself.
In conservation, as in life in general, you’re never going to be fully prepared for life’s unpredictable moments. You simply have to close your eyes, leap as far as you can in the direction of your dreams, and hope that you reach them on the buzz of little bee wings.
Watch our film on the rusty-patched bumble bee at www.rustypatched.com.
This article is brought to you by the 1Frame4Nature Campaign. Share a picture and story on Instagram with the hashtag #1Frame4Nature, of your personal connection to nature and tell us what action you’ve taken on behalf of our planet.