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A Ghost in the Making: Nationwide Release of a Revealing Film About the Decline of a Once Common Pollinator

Posted on Jun 30, 2016

Day’s Edge Productions recently released A Ghost In the Making: Searching for the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee, an enchanting short film about the disappearance of the rusty patched bumble bee and one man’s journey to find out what’s happened to it. After being received with acclaim at film festivals this spring, the film is now available for anyone to view online.

Everyone has heard about bee declines, but with so much attention focused on domesticated honeybees, someone has to speak up for the 3,600 species of native bees in the United States. Natural history photographer Clay Bolt (with whom RTPI collaborates on the ‘Meet Your Neighbors’ initiative) has been on a multi-year quest to tell the stories of our native bees, and one elusive species – the rusty patched bumble bee – has become his white whale.

Rusty-patched bumble bee worker photographed in the Meet Your Neighbours field-studio at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum

Rusty-patched bumble bee worker photographed in the Meet Your Neighbours field-studio at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum

Traveling from state to state in search of this elusive bumble bee, Clay meets the scientists and conservationists working tirelessly to preserve it. His journey finally brings him to Wisconsin, where he comes face to face with his quarry and discovers an answer to the question that has been nagging him: why save a species?

“Seeing my first rusty-patched bumble bee in the wild was a life-changing experience,” says Clay Bolt. “Here was a species that was common not so long ago, living out its life as its ancestors have done for thousands of years. It had no idea that its fate, and the fate of its lineage, was in our hands. At that moment, I knew that I would do everything in my power to encourage others to make life possible for this species.”

Described as “a wonderful and poignant short film about our disappearing bumble bees, and about the importance and beauty of the little creatures that we often forget,” by Dave Goulson, author of A Sting in the Tale and founder of Bumblebee Conservation Trust, A Ghost in the Making was produced in partnership with the Xerces Society, with funding from Endangered Species Chocolate.

Bumble bees are iconic native pollinators that contribute to our food security and healthy ecosystems. The rusty patched bumble bee was once very common from the Upper Midwest to the East Coast and was an important pollinator of both crops and wildflowers. Recently it has undergone a precipitous decline. Historically known from more than twenty-five states and parts of Canada, a recent study estimates that the rusty patched bumble bee has disappeared from 87 percent of its historic range. In the limited areas where it is still found, this bee is much less abundant than it was in the past.

“This film tells the story of a once common bee that has undergone a dramatic decline and may now be headed to extinction,” said Rich Hatfield, Senior Conservation Biologist at the Xerces Society. “We need to protect the rusty patched bumble bee and the whole suite of native, wild bees; our food security very well may depend on it.”

Diseases from commercially managed bumble bees, pesticides, habitat loss, and climate change all threaten the rusty patched bumble bee with extinction. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently considering adding the rusty patched bumble bee to the endangered species list; if added, it will be the first North American bumble bee to be protected under the Endangered Species Act.

To view the film, visit rustypatched.com/the-film/

To sign a petition to the US Government to protect the rusty patched bumble bee, visit rustypatched.com/sign-petition/

Contacts:
Sarina Jepsen, Endangered Species Program Director, The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, 971-244-3727, [email protected]
Clay Bolt, Natural History Photographer, 864-385-4616, [email protected]