USBombus, a database of contemporary survey data for North American Bumble Bees (Hymenoptera, Apidae, Bombus) distributed in the United States
Background Bumble bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae, Bombus) are pollinators of wild and economically important flowering plants. However, at least four bumble bee species have declined significantly in population abundance and geographic range relative to historic estimates, and one species is possibly extinct. While a wealth of historic data is now available for many of the North American species found to be in decline in online databases, systematic survey data of stable species is still not publically available. The availability of contemporary survey data is critically important for the future monitoring of wild bumble bee populations. Without such data, the ability to ascertain the conservation status of bumble bees in the United States will remain challenging. New information This paper describes USBombus, a large database that represents the outcomes of one of the largest standardized surveys of bumble bee pollinators (Hymenoptera, Apidae, Bombus) globally. The motivation to collect live bumble bees across the United States was to examine the decline and conservation status of Bombus affinis, B. occidentalis, B. pensylvanicus, and B. terricola. Prior to our national survey of bumble bees in the United States from 2007 to 2010, there have only been regional accounts of bumble bee abundance and richness. In addition to surveying declining bumble bees, we also collected and documented a diversity of co-occuring bumble bees. However we have not yet completely reported their distribution and diversity onto a public online platform. Now, for the first time, we report the geographic distribution of bumble bees reported to be in decline (Cameron et al. 2011), as well as bumble bees that appeared to be stable on a large geographic scale in the United States (not in decline). In this database we report a total of 17,930 adult occurrence records across 397 locations and 39 species of Bombus detected in our national survey. We summarize their abundance and distribution across the United States and association to different ecoregions. The geospatial coverage of the dataset extends across 41 of the 50 US states, and from 0 to 3500 m a.s.l. Authors and respective field crews spent a total of 512 hours surveying bumble bees from 2007 to 2010. The dataset was developed using SQL server 2008 r2. For each specimen, the following information is generally provided: species, name, sex, caste, temporal and geospatial details, Cartesian coordinates, data collector(s), and when available, host plants. This database has already proven useful for a variety of studies on bumble bee ecology and conservation. However it is not publicly available. Considering the value of pollinators in agriculture and wild ecosystems, this large database of bumble bees will likely prove useful for investigations of the effects of anthropogenic activities on pollinator community composition and conservation status.