Not seen in more than 20 years: A bee researcher finds a rare bumblebee among the flowers at the OKC Zoo

Great State

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — Creatures in cages don’t hold Jose Montalva’s interest at the Oklahoma City Zoo.

He comes here once a week looking most closely at the gardens here and the insects that fly amongst the pollinating flowers.

“You see here in the garden,” he points, “they have a lot of native plants and that is really important.”

Since March, he’s been conducting a survey of bees in central Oklahoma, and what better place to do that than within one of the largest pollinator gardens in the state.

“This is a real oasis in the middle of Oklahoma City,” he states.

Jose grew up in Chile and came to Oklahoma to study biology.

It was bees that drew his eye.

“I get captured by the bees,” he admits.

So far, he’s been able to identify 40 different types of bees on the 100 acres of zoo property.

As different flowers come into bloom, others are showing up too.

He says, “We now have 200 recorded bee species here in Oklahoma, but we believe there are 400 species.”

There have also been surprises.

This is the 2-Spotted Bumblebee, not to be confused with the more common Brown Belted Bumblebee.

Montalva explains, “They call them Brown Belted because they have one line of brown on the abdomen.”

Anyway, he’s the first to officially observe the 2-Spotted variety in Oklahoma since the late 90’s.

Montalva thinks there are a lot more surprises waiting to buzz by.

“Here in Oklahoma, we don’t know what we have.”

He’ll finish this survey at the end of the summer.

Meanwhile, he and a few other bug lovers at the zoo are still marveling over the variety of pollinators making use of a small space within the city, a true oasis for the largest and the smallest, and everything in between.

Montalva is a graduate student at the University of Oklahoma and an instructor at East Central University.

He’s planning to take bee surveys across the state in the next few years to get a clear picture of numbers and quantities of species.

The OKC Zoo offers pollinator seed packets for sale with home made fertilizers.

‘Is This a Great State or What?’ is sponsored by WEOKIE.

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