Did you know that Minnesota has a state bee? The rusty patched bumble bee became Minnesota’s state bee in 2019. The rusty patched bumble bee has been listed as federally endangered since 2017.

Pollinators like our state bee help support Minnesota’s environment and economy. That’s why the Minnesota Lottery created a very special scratch ticket with our friends at the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board. The Bee Lucky scratch game, starring our state bee, has landed in lottery retailers across Minnesota.

Rusty Patched Bumble Bee Facts

Where they live

In Minnesota, the rusty patched bumble bee has been found recently as far north as Bemidji, south to the Iowa border, with many sightings in the Twin Cities metro area.

How they got their name

Workers and males present the characteristic “rusty patch” on their abdomen. This rusty patch is sandwiched between yellow bands, and the rest of the abdomen is black.

Why They Are Endangered

Native pollinators, including the rusty patched bumble bee, are threatened by several factors:

  1. Loss of habitat. Significant habitat loss and fragmentation has contributed to a long slow decline of rusty patched bumble bee by removing the essential things they need to survive such as flowers and nesting opportunities.
  2. Pesticides. Insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides are applied in different types of settings such as urban and agricultural landscapes. Exposure to pesticides can happen when bumble bees eat nectar and gather pollen.
  3. Diseases and parasites.The commercial production of bumble bees and management of honey bees to provide pollination services can introduce foreign pathogens and parasites to native bee populations.
  4. Climate change. As temperatures across the globe change, extreme weather events connected with climate change such as flooding, drought, and fires directly harm pollinators. There have been reports of disruptions between bee emergence and flower blooms, reducing food availability and pollination services. For example, after warmer winters, some spring flowers will start blooming early, and by the time RPBB queens emerge, there will be fewer flowers available, meaning that bees miss out on food, and flowers miss out on pollination (Kehrberger et al. 2019).

These four factors interact and amplify the effect of each one on its own. For example, poor nutrition due to habitat loss can make bees more susceptible to negative effects of diseases and pesticides. In addition, habitat loss reduces the ability of pollinators to move when areas become unsuitable due to climate change.

To learn about how you can help, please check out the rusty patched bumble bee fact sheet here.

Facts provided by the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board: Rusty Patched Bumble Bee [Fact Sheet], written by the Minnesota Interagency Pollinator Protection Team and Dr. Elaine Evans, Bee Lab, University of Minnesota.