Observation: We have bees in February! We usually don't see bees until May/June.
Alaskan Northern Bees Consult: Dr. Ian Williams writes, "Queen bumble bees will leave their overwintering location to search for a nesting site in the spring. She then collects and stores nectar and pollen, and initiates egg laying to start a new colony. My guess is that is a new queen looking for a nest site. May be an issue for her since I doubt that there is much available forage this time of year. I'm not sure how readily they can revert to overwintering state after being prematurely stimulated (awakened) by environmental conditions (warm weather). There are 19 or 20 species of Bumble bees (Bombus) that have been described in Alaska. I collected a few samples that look very much like the bee in the picture from different locations around Anchorage last year (I'm looking at them right now). I guess B. Sylvicola but am not enough of a bee identification expert to be sure. My guess is that this is a fairly common species. DNA bar-coding would be one way to provide a definitive answer. Indeed, it might be a neat project if you can find a collaborator that to bar code Bombus samples from around the state. Not sure how much is known about the patterns of distribution and diversity of bees across Alaska. Just a thought." Source: alaskanorthernbees.com – Ian Williams PhD (Beekeeper, Biologist)
Early bees (Photo courtesy of Pauloff Harbor Tribe)