Arctic Bumblebees


Superb science journalism:

Six Scientists, 1,000 Miles, One
Prize: The Arctic Bumblebee

A team of researchers scours the wilds of northern Alaska for Bombus polaris, a big bee that has adapted to the cold and that can teach them more about the effects of climate change.


DALTON HIGHWAY, Alaska — “To bees, time is honey.

— Bernd Heinrich, “Bumblebee Economics

One hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle, by the side of a dusty road, two women in anti-mosquito head nets peer at a queen bumblebee buzzing furiously in a plastic tube.

“I think it’s the biggest bumblebee I’ve caught in my life!” Kristal Watrous says.

S. Hollis Woodard looks at the prize and says, “It’s the biggest frigging bumblebee I’ve ever seen in my life!”

Dr. Woodard, an assistant professor at the University of California, Riverside; her lab manager, Ms. Watrous; and a small team of young academics have embarked on a bee-hunting road trip from Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay and back, almost 1,000 miles all told, more than 800 on the Dalton Highway.


Hollis and Bren Woodard capturing bees next to the Alaskan pipeline. CreditKatie Orlinsky for The New York Times

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