This follows a trend of declining bumblebees in the northeast US

There are about 50 species of bumblebee in the US and Canada, and over the last decade, it has been well documented that multiple species of bumblebee are declining. However, the picture is complicated, with some species declining, some increasing, and other species lack the data to know one way or the other. It also varies by region, since some declining bumblebees are still doing okay in certain areas of their range. As a result, bumblebees in some areas seem to be doing much better than others.

So how are bumblebees doing in Massachusetts?

Starting approximately 100 years ago, scientist…


*-success not guaranteed

As a scientist in the biological sciences, I have seen many grad students crash and burn because they didn’t know the unwritten rules of success. This generally happens because grad students believe in the stated values of academia rather than the things the system actually values. In fact, many people go their entire graduate career mistakenly believing that as long as they do Good Science (tm), everything else will just fall into place.

Here, I provide the secret steps that are necessary for success in academia. Follow all these steps, and you will have a distinct leg up over the…


A persistent myth that I’ve heard repeatedly over the years is that honeybees (Apis mellifera) are extinct in the wild and the only ones left are in managed colonies kept by people.

There’s just one problem…this is completely false. Wild honeybee colonies are doing fine and they are in no danger of going extinct.

What is the origin of this myth?

Some of this confusion appears to be due to a lack of understanding of the nuances involved in bee declines, since it can be difficult for the media and general public to understand the differences between managed bees, wild bees, and native bees.

For example, the…


The rusty patched bumblebee (scientific name Bombus affinis), is a fuzzy, loveable bee that has experienced precipitous declines in recent years. It used to be a common bumblebee in the eastern United States, but sometime around the late 1990’s, the range of this species contracted to a fraction of where it used to occur. Nowadays, rusty patched bumblebees are largely limited to an area in the Midwest, occurring in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois. In 2017, the rusty patched bumblebee was listed as an endangered species, making it the first endangered bee in the continental United States.

I am lucky…

Zach Portman

I am scientist who studies bees. My research covers the identification, biology, evolution, and conservation of native bees.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store