The Rusty-Patched Bumble Bee is a species of bumble bee native to eastern North America. Its workers and males have a small rust-colored patch on the middle of their second abdominal segment. This bee was once commonly distributed throughout the east and upper Midwest of the United States, but has declined from an estimated 87 percent of its historic range in recent years.

Endangered Rusty-Patched Bumble Bee recently observed in Kenosha

Root-Pike WIN and UW-Parkside partnered in Pollinator Patch Program


Mission: Restore, protect and sustain the Root-Pike basin watersheds through the funding and facilitation of a regional network of locally initiated projects

Over the last few years, Root-Pike Watershed Initiative Network has been working with the University of Wisconsin-Parkside in a huge effort to restore habitat for the federally endangered Rusty-Patched Bumble Bee. 

Located in Kenosha, the 210-acre project parcel of the UW Parkside cross country course is considered an epicenter for Rusty-Patched habitat, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife. However, it lacks the native vegetative diversity needed for survival of this important pollinator. 

Restoration work included removal of invasive plant species and the replanting of native species that offer vital foraging, nesting, and overwintering habitat for pollinators. 

The Rusty-Patched Bumble Bee.

The improved prairie provides hands-on learning for UW-Parkside students, as well as a much richer landscape for public walking, snowshoeing, fishing, cross-country skiing, geo-caching, birding and cross-country running.

The restoration strategy was a success, according to Root-Pike WIN. 

Confirmed by both the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Rusty-Patched was recently observed and documented within the restoration area.

Discovered by their project team at RES, this Rusty-Patched was enjoying high-quality nectar from the native Monarda fistulosa located along the main trail within Phase 1 of the project area. 

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Rusty-Patched Bumble Bee has declined by 87 percent in the last 20 years and is only likely to be present in 0.1 percent of their historical range.

They may be small, but pollinators such as the Rusty-Patched Bumble Bee are of vital importance both to human food security and to healthy functioning ecosystems. Their contribution, along with other important native pollinators, account for $3 billion of fruit pollination, and supplies wildlife with plants used for sustenance and shelter.

Additionally, the Rusty-Patched Bumble Bee is an important indicator species, offering clues as to the health of the surrounding ecosystem. They are also a keystone species, meaning that their success is vital to the success of many other species, and disturbances that negatively affect them will affect many others as well.

The newly planted office pollinator patch at Root-Pike WIN.

Current issues that harm the health and success of the RPBB include increased habitat loss, widespread pesticide use, and the effects of climate change.

You can help save the Rusty-Patched Bumble Bee and other pollinators by turning a less-used area of turf in your yard into a Pollinator Patch filled with native plants.

Root-Pike WIN has done just that at its office, creating a safe-haven for these important creatures. They are also in the process of working with other municipalities, schools, businesses, and individuals to convert more land into Pollinator Patches.

Don’t worry, you won’t have swarms of bees. Instead, you will see them and other pollinators such as butterflies and moths lovingly enjoying the nectar from native plants before buzzing off to their next location. You can then rest easy knowing you are doing your part to protect these important critters by planting with a purpose.

To learn more about Root-Pike WIN and their Pollinator Patch Program, please visit Please reach out to Root-Pike WIN’s Native Plant Expert, Nan Calvert with questions at