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Ecological Society of America

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


In recent decades, many bumble bee species have declined due to changes in habitat, climate, and pressures from pathogens, pesticides, and introduced species. The western bumble bee (Bombus occidentalis), once common throughout western North America, is a species of concern and will be considered for listing by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). We attempt to improve alignment of data collection and research with USFWS needs to consider redundancy, resiliency, and representation in the upcoming species status assessment. We reviewed existing data and literature on B. occidentalis, highlighting information gaps and priority topics for research. Priorities include increased knowledge of trends, basic information on several life‐history stages, and improved understanding of the relative and interacting effects of stressors on population trends, especially the effects of pathogens, pesticides, climate change, and habitat loss. An understanding of how and where geographic range extent has changed for the two subspecies of B. occidentalis is also needed. We outline data that could be easily collected in other research projects that would increase their utility for understanding range‐wide trends of bumble bees. We modeled the overall trend in occupancy from 1998 to 2018 of Bombus occidentalis within the continental United States using existing data. The probability of local occupancy declined by 93% over 21 yr from 0.81 (95% CRI = 0.43, 0.98) in 1998 to 0.06 (95% CRI = 0.02, 0.16) in 2018. The decline in occupancy varied spatially by landcover and other environmental factors. Detection rates vary in both space and time, but peak detection across the continental United States occurs in mid‐July. We found considerable spatial gaps in recent sampling, with limited sampling in many regions, including most of Alaska, northwestern Canada, and the southwestern United States. We therefore propose a sampling design to address these gaps to best inform the ESA species status assessment through improved assessment of how the spatial distribution of stressors influences occupancy changes. Finally, we request involvement via data sharing, participation in occupancy sampling with repeated visits to distributed survey sites, and complementary research to address priorities outlined in this paper.