Endangered bumble bee sighted at Lyman Woods Nature Center & Preserve

Wed August 30, 2023

DOWNERS GROVE, IL— Located one block south of the I-88 tollway at the bustling intersection of Highland Avenue and 31st St in Downers Grove, Lyman Woods Nature Center and Preserve is a nature-lover’s oasis. Featuring 150 acres of oak woods, prairie, and marsh habitats that support over 300 species of native plants, Lyman Woods is home to numerous mammals, reptiles, amphibians, songbirds and insects. One truly special insect living in Lyman Woods is the federally endangered rusty patched bumble bee.

The rusty patched bumble bee was discovered on Aug. 3, 2023, by K.C. Carter, Pollinator Ecologist for the Illinois Natural History Survey at the University of Illinois. Contracted by the Illinois Tollway Authority to survey for various pollinators in public lands and forest preserves within a mile of the tollway corridors in northeastern Illinois, Carter was thrilled to discover a rusty patched bumble bee queen during her assignment at the Lyman Woods Nature Center and Preserve. Since that initial discovery, several more verified sightings have occurred.

“I was beyond excited to find a queen of the federally endangered rusty patched bumble bee in the wetland west of the Lyman Woods Nature Center. I'm glad to know Lyman Woods is a haven for very fragile species such as the rusty patched bumble bee,” said Carter.

The rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis) is known for its rust-colored patch on the second abdominal segment of the worker and drone bees. It was listed as a federally endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in 2017. According to the U.S. FWS, the decline of this bumble bee was possibly caused by a harmful interaction between a disease-causing pathogen and exposure to pesticides. Currently, rusty patched bumble bees can be found in small scattered populations in Illinois and nine other states. In 2021, the U.S. FWS has launched a recovery plan to prevent the extinction of the rusty patched bumble bee, which provides guidance on how local, state and federal agencies, in addition to the public, can help to revive the species and improve its ecosystem.

Since 1987, the preservation of Lyman Woods has represented a cooperative effort between the Village of Downers Grove, the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, the Downers Grove Park District and many dedicated individuals. Through an ongoing aggressive restoration plan, the Downers Grove Park District has made significant efforts to restore, preserve and maintain the natural habitats at Lyman Woods, which thrive with native plant and animal species.

Staff at Lyman Woods Interpretive Center offer numerous nature programs each year to educate the public on ways that they can help pollinators like the rusty patched bumble bee. Through hands-on programs such as beekeeping and gardening and by visiting demonstration areas like the butterfly garden and bee apiary, visitors of all ages can gain insight about pollinators in addition to learning more about the unique and vital ecosystem that Lyman Woods provides for wildlife.

Ryan Maywin, Supervisor of Natural Areas and Programs at Lyman Woods, is eager to share the news of the discovery of the rusty patched bumble bee with the community.

“Lyman Woods welcomes nearly 3,000 visitors and several thousand program participants each year who come to enjoy and explore the beauty of this unique and special site. We hope the discovery of the rusty patched bumble bee gives community members one more reason to love Lyman Woods. Our hardworking staff and volunteers look forward to continuing our efforts to restore and preserve these habitats that support pollinators like the endangered rusty patched bumble bee,” said Maywin.


Lyman Woods Nature Center and Preserve is located at 901 31st St. in Downers Grove, Illinois. For more information, visit lymanwoods.org.