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  • Jennifer Jewell


FOODSCAPING - with Brie Arthur. Photo courtesy of Brie Arthur, all rights reserved.


Following on from native plant week, this week we revisit a BEST OF conversation about some of our favorite native plant visitors: our native bumble bees. Bumble bee conservation has recently had some good news: the Xerces Society recently kicked off their newest Bumble Bee Atlas project, this time in the US Midwest. 

With that in mind, please enjoy our conversation from National Pollinator Week in June of 2023 with Leif Richardson, Conservation Biologist with the Xerces Society, sharing so much about conservation, about bumble bees, about the nation-wide Bumble Bee Atlas projects generally, and his spearheading of the California Bumble Bee Atlas. 

National Pollinator Week is an annual celebration since 2010 in support of pollinator health that was initiated and is managed by Pollinator Partnership. This year National Pollinator Week festivities will take place across the country June 19 – 25, 2023 and in celebration, this week on Cultivating Place we look closely at one particular group of our native pollinators the charismatic bumble bees, the more than 250 species in the genus Bombus.

Our guest this week, Leif Richardson, is an Endangered Species Conservation Biologist with the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, coordinating the community science efforts behind the newest of the society’s north American Bumble Bee Atlases - this time in California. As of 2023 there were 8 Bumble Bee Atlas Projects with 3 more underway and overseen by a variety of scientific organization across North America.

Among other things, During our conversation, Leif shares more of the dangers involves and some small progress in more research being done as to combinations of pesticides on our bumble bee populations. But forewarning, these are painful truths in our world – truths we as gardeners can have a say in. All together, the work of these projects and their organizing groups help us all to better understand the status of the close to 50 North American bumble bees in order to make better land management and environmental regulation decisions for the ensured well-being of these critically important keystone species pollinators into the future.

If you’re in the Northern California listening region, the in-depth and beautiful exhibit entitled Bombus: The Natural History of Bumble Bees. At Gateway Science Museum on the campus of California State University, Chico, closes at the end of this June 2024.

The exhibition interweaves current scientific research on the North American population of bumble bees, as well as over a decade of study, observations and spectacular photography by plantsman and California Bumble Bee Atlas participant John Whittlesey. Through his deeply studied lens, you will never see a bumble bee again without a deepened love and appreciation.

Listen in this week and join us in person this summer!

Photos as noted by Jennifer Jewell, Atlas training equipment and bumble bee on phacelia courtesy of Leif Richardson, and queen native bumble bee on lupine courtesy of John Whittlesey. All rights reserved.

HERE IS THIS WEEK'S TRANSCRIPT by Doulos Transcription Service:

CultivatingPlace - Richardson - 06-15-23_Final
Download PDF • 180KB

You can follow the Bumble Bee Atlas projects, the California Bumble Bee Atlas:

specifically, and the Xerces Society work on-line:

And on Instagram:

Photos as noted by Jennifer Jewell at a California Bumble Bee Atlas Training held at John Whittlesey's Canyon Creek gardens earlier this year; equipment and bumble bee on phacelia courtesy of Leif Richardson, and native bumble bees courtesy of John Whittlesey. All rights reserved.


you might also enjoy these Best of CP programs in our archive:

JOIN US again next week, when in anticipation of Mother’s Day, graduation season, and summer gardening hitting full stride here in the United States, we’ll be talking with British plantswoman, gardener, and tastemaker Sarah Raven. Her newest books is A Year Full of Pots: Container Flowers For All Seasons. Gardens, Garden books, Flowers year round, and great containers – this conversation is all about gorgeous in the garden!



Cultivating Place is made possible in part by listeners like you and by generous support from

supporting initiatives that empower women and help preserve the planet through the intersection of environmental advocacy, social justice, and creativity.



Thinking out loud this week:

I want to share a story of great happiness to me – a story of the power of just one gardener’s voice and the connections across time and space that we garden folk weave and grow – just last week Dr. Emily Bretl of the Marram Collaborative a Michigan-based ecological landscape group working with schools, organizations, and families to co-create transformative educational experiences at the intersection of artistry, ecology, and sustainability. They nuture open-hearted connection, meaningful communication, and artful collaboration as a means to make real change happen in our schools, businesses, and communities. Dr. Bretl wrote to me saying this: Had to let you know that I just had an initial conversation with Pat Reynolds of Heritage Growers Native seed in Northern California about starting a seed amplification project at the Ecological Field Station that I run. I only heard of his work through your show, so thank you. He was so kind, and generous with sharing his expertise – not time to get my head to sort through and organize the details to put a plan in place.” Now that is good seeding, great amplifying, and my deepest greatest hope of this work of Cultivating Place. Because together we really do grow the world and ourselves better.

On another note of togetherness, which often requires an invitation, last week we talked about who is invited to visit our gardens and this week – I am so happy to say John and I have seen three of our regional bumble bees in my town garden, and all five of the species that nest in and near his canyon garden. You can hear them before you see them, and you can spend a good part of any morning just listening and watching as they gather – they are so intent, so methodical, so diligent – so magical.

May all of our gardens be habitats that welcome and support these magnificent creatures co-evolved with the miraculous plants of our places.




Cultivating Place is a co-production of North State Public Radio, a service of Cap Radio, licensed to Chico State Enterprises. Cultivating place is made possible in part listeners just like you through the support button at the top right-hand corner of every page at Cultivating

The CP team includes producer and engineer Matt Fidler, with weekly tech and web support from Angel Huracha, and this summer we're joined by communications intern Sheila Stern. We’re based on the traditional and present homelands of the Mechoopda Indian Tribe of the Chico Rancheria. Original theme music is by Ma Muse, accompanied by Joe Craven and Sam Bevan.

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