Rare Cockerell’s Bumblebee Rediscovered, Last Seen in 1956

The last time Cockerell’s Bumblebee was seen in the United States was in 1956. But a team from the University of California, Riverside, recently rediscovered the rarest species of bumblebee living in the White Mountains in New Mexico.

Douglas Yanega, senior museum scientist at UC Riverside, said:

“Most bumblebees in the U.S. are known from dozens to thousands of specimens, but not this species. The area it occurs in is infrequently visited by entomologists, and the species has long been ignored because it was thought that it was not actually a genuine species, but only a regional color variant of another well-known species.”

Yanega notes that there are close to 50 species of bumblebee living in the United States. Some species cover more than 13,000 square miles of land in the US. Cockerell’s Bumblebee lives on less than 300 square miles, which according to Science Daily, is most limited range of any bumblebee species in the world.

Yanega also says that the rediscovery of Cockerell’s Bumblebee isn’t too surprising. Yanega stated:

“When an insect species is very rare, or highly localized, it can fairly easily escape detection for very long periods of time. There are many precedents — some of them very recently in the news, in fact — of insects that have been unseen for anywhere from 70 to more than 100 years, suddenly turning up again when someone either got lucky enough, or persistent enough, to cross paths with them again.”

Science Daily reports that there are approximately 8 million species in existence on earth. The vast majority of those species are comprised of insects. Still, only about 1 million of those insects have been described.

Yanega added:

“The pace of species discovery and description is incredibly slow because there are so few insect taxonomists relative to the number of undescribed insects. Moreover, the work is painstaking, time-consuming, and not very glamorous, at least in the public’s perception, when compared to studying things like dinosaurs.”

Any bug lovers out there? There’s a world of insects that needs to be described!

The rediscovery of Cockerell’s Bumblebee isn’t the only surprising insect find to happen this year. A man in New Zealand recently found the world’s largest insect.