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Newly launched community science project seeks volunteers to look for bumble bees throughout the state.


For immediate release

Media contacts
Michelle Toshack, Conservation Biologist, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation; 406-296-6006; [email protected]

Rich Hatfield, Senior Conservation Biologist, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation; 503-212-0540; [email protected]

Marirose Kuhlman, Habitat Coordinator, Missoula County Department of Ecology and Extension; 406-258-4219; [email protected]

Amanda Hendrix, Regional Botanist, U.S. Forest Service; 406-329-3041; [email protected]


MISSOULA, Mont.; May 13, 2024 --- The Montana Bumble Bee Atlas is a new community science project that aims to better understand and protect the state’s bumble bees — and you can help. The project is seeking volunteers to work alongside local researchers to gather data. Volunteers will conduct field surveys across the state using a catch-and-release method to document the bees.

The first volunteer workshops are scheduled for June 1, in Missoula, and June 15, in Bozeman.

The project is a collaboration between the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, the U.S. Forest Service, and Missoula County Department of Ecology and Extension.

“Bumble bees face a myriad of threats, from climate change and drought to pesticide use and disease,” said Michelle Toshack, conservation biologist for the Xerces Society. “In order to mitigate these threats, and help imperiled species recover, we need better information about the status of bumble bees. Scientists can’t do this alone — the time is too urgent, and the need is too great.”

Due to Montana’s wild and remote nature, there are many unknowns about the status of bumble bees and the environmental conditions they need to thrive.

There are at least four species of bumble bees that are of conservation concern in Montana, including the western bumble bee (Bombus occidentalis), the Suckley cuckoo bumble bee (B. suckleyi), the American bumble bee (B. pensylvanicus), and the Ashton cuckoo bumble bee (B. bohemicus).

“Community science programs are a way for people to truly save the bees, by getting involved in evidence-based research that protects wild pollinators,” said Marirose Kuhlman, Habitat Coordinator at the Missoula County Department of Ecology and Extension. “The Montana Bumble Bee Atlas will have a long-lasting impact on the health of Montana’s bumble bees.”

Pollinators play an essential role in sustaining the health of our environment by pollinating flowers in natural areas and contributing to successful harvests on farms. In recent years however, pollinators have experienced declines, emphasizing the need for baseline data on bumble bee distribution and species ranges.

“Pollinators play an important role in ecosystem health and sustainability. As such, there is value in understanding the status of all pollinators and specifically bumble bees across the state of Montana,” said Amanda Hendrix, regional botanist for the US Forest Service. “The Bumble Bee Atlas will help fill data gaps and help inform Forest Service land management decisions that may impact at-risk species.”

The project is funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) through the U.S. Forest Service. This vital funding allows the Montana Bumble Bee Atlas to gather crucial data on at-risk bumble bee populations. The data will help land management agencies make informed decisions about pollinator habitat. Focusing on these critical areas will not only improve the survival of these essential pollinators but also promote healthy ecosystems overall. Additionally, the data will serve as a crucial baseline for measuring the success of future restoration efforts.


For more information about the Montana Bumble Bee Atlas project, please visit

For more information about bumble bee conservation, please visit

About the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation
The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation is a donor-supported nonprofit organization that protects our world through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitats. Xerces works throughout North America to conserve pollinators and other invertebrates, protect endangered species, and reduce pesticide use and impacts. Our staff use applied research, policy advocacy, public education and on-the-ground habitat improvement to advance meaningful, long-term conservation. Xerces is the largest invertebrate conservation organization in the world. For over 50 years, we have been champions of Earth’s most biodiverse and overlooked animals, protecting the life that sustains us. Learn more at

About the Northern Region One of the U.S. Forest Service
The U.S. Forest Service, Northern Region, oversees 25 million acres of public lands stretching from the Dakotas to Montana and Idaho. Stretching from the prairies of the Dakotas to the majestic peaks of Montana and Idaho, these National Forests and Grasslands provide a multitude of benefits for the public and the environment. Our mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. We achieve this through a commitment to multiple-use management, ensuring a balance between conservation, recreation, and resource utilization.

About the Missoula County Department of Ecology and Extension
The Missoula County Department of Ecology and Extension is a collaborative effort established in 1985, combining the expertise of the Missoula Extension office and the Weed District. We offer educational programs, outreach, and training to address the needs of our community in land management, youth development, and family and consumer sciences. Our mission is to promote sustainable practices, responsible resource use, and a healthy, vibrant Missoula County. The Department of Ecology and Extension is an overarching department housed under the Lands and Communities division of Missoula County. The Department of Ecology and Extension is an overarching sector of the County Weed District, Aquatic Invasive Species District, Lolo Mosquito District, Missoula Extension, and MSU Extension.