Urban habitats are, in many ways, quite hospitable for bees, with a diversity of plants for nectar and pollen and an array of habitats for nesting, mating and shelter. Anywhere we live can provide habitat, whether it’s in a big city, a small town or a suburb or on a farm. But some species of native bees are in trouble. Take the rusty-patched bumblebee, for example. As recently as the 1980s, it was abundant in southern Ontario — one of the most common bumblebee species in the region. Its extensive historical range spans from the eastern US west to the Dakotas, north to southern Ontario and south to Georgia. However, by the early 2000s, it had all but disappeared from Canada and much of the US.
In 2012, the rusty-patched bumblebee had the unfortunate distinction of being the first native bee in Canada to be officially designated as endangered. One of the authors of this book, Sheila Colla, was the last person in Canada to identify this bee in the wild, in 2009, by the side of a road in Pinery Provincial Park. Sheila had spent every summer since 2005 searching for the rusty-patched bumblebee in places where they had previously been recorded. On that summer day in 2009, she had found none and was on her way out of the park when, from the passenger window of the car, she spotted the distinctive rusty patch of a lone specimen. This sighting was the last known in Canada.