A rare bumblebee was found in Mount Hood National Forest after researchers had previously thought the species had vanished more than a decade ago in the region west of the Cascades mountain range.
The discovery of the western bumblebee was made by Xerces Society biologist Rich Hatfield, Fox affiliate KPTV reported
The biologist had spent six weeks over the summer at the Mount Hood National Forest identifying bumblebee species, courtesy of the Oregon Zoo Foundation's Future for Wildlife program which funded the project.
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"This discovery suggests that this species might have a chance to repopulate its range," Hatfield told KPTV.
According to the Seattle Times
, there have been just 15 sightings over the past 15 years of the western bumblebee, which prior to the mid-1990s had been one of the most common pollinators in the west before they vanished.
The western bumblebee is one of five once-common native bumblebees that have seen populations plummet in recent years, KPTV noted.
The phenomenon, known as colony collapse disorder (CCD), has been felt across North America over the past seven years and is responsible for the overall terminal decline of honeybees in the United States.
First observed in 2006, CCD is responsible for a 29 percent drop in U.S. beehives in 2009, following a 36 percent decline in 2008 and a 32 percent fall in 2007, according to the US Department of Agriculture.
Since the 1940's, the total number of managed bee colonies has dropped 50 percent from five million to just 2.5 million today, the USDA reports.
Honey bees play a key role in pollinating a wide variety of food crops around the world.
In the U.S. alone, honey bees play a role in the production of about one-third of all food and beverages sold.
"One out of every three bites of food that we eat comes from a plant that was pollinated by an animal, and usually those animals are bees," Hatfield added. "The fact that any bee could disappear is a scary proposition."
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In total, one dozen western bumblebees were found by Hatfield during his six-week excursion at Mount Hood.
Though the official cause of the massive honey bee die-off has yet to be determined, scientists and beekeepers alike suspect that pesticides likely play a role.
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