Rusty Patched Bumble Bee Habitat Slated for Destruction

Less than 0.01% of native prairie landscape remains in Illinois – the Prairie State. Threats like development, agriculture, and pollution have contributed to the decline in this iconic habitat. Unique native plants, pollinators, and other wildlife all exist within important prairie ecosystems. These complex relationships make it possible for unique plant and wildlife species to thrive.

The Bell Bowl Prairie is one of those unique habitats. The prairie is home to the endangered rusty patched bumble bee as well as rare native plant communities. The rusty patched bumble bee was the first bumble bee to be listed as endangered after its population dropped by 90%. Rusty patched bumble bees used to be found in 28 states, but since 2000 have only been spotted in 13 states. Bell Bowl Prairie is important because it provides ideal habitat for overwintering queen bees. The prairie sustains bees and other pollinators with its abundant native flora. 

Bumble bee feeding on nectar
Endangered rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis), Madison, Wisconsin. Photo by Clay Bolt.

It’s not just the rusty patched bumble bee that relies on this crucial prairie habitat. Here, you can find native plants that are endangered in the state of Illinois like the prairie dandelion and large-flowered beardtongue. And birds, like the black-billed cuckoo, also call this habitat home. 

Bell Bowl Prairie is a gravel hill prairie representing 5 acres of high-quality dry gravel prairie habitat in Illinois. This remnant habitat has not been significantly disturbed by threats. Conserving remnant habitats like Bell Bowl Prairie is important because studying these intact ecosystems can help us better restore other ecosystems to serve wildlife — and remnant habitat is irreplaceable.

Sadly, Bell Bowl Prairie is slated for almost complete destruction on November 1st, 2021 as part of the expansion of the Chicago Rockford International Airport. This expansion would eradicate crucial habitat for the endangered rusty patched bumblebee.

Please add your voice urging local, state and airport officials to change plans for the airport to exclude the native prairie area and help save the rusty patched bumble bee.


And learn here how you can help disappearing bumble bees at home.