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PORTLAND A once-common bumblebee, which mysteriously disappeared west of the Cascades 15 years ago, has been discovered in the Mount Hood National Forest.

A recent survey by the Xerces Society uncovered the stronghold of western bumblebees near Timberline Lodge.

With funding from the Oregon Zoo, biologist Rich Hatfield spent weeks this summer identifying the inch-long, white-bottomed bee that was a once common pollinator in the Willamette Valley.

The western is one of five once-common native bumblebees whose populations have plummeted in recent years, including the Franklin s bumblebee, which scientists say may already be extinct.

A zoo photographer also captured what is believed to be the first high-speed photo of a western bumblebee flight.

In the last 15 years there have only been about 15 sightings of this bumblebee west of the Cascades, Hatfield said in a press release. This discovery suggests that this species might have a chance to repopulate its range.

Scientists attribute declines in bumblebees to a variety of factors. In June, pesticides killed some 50,000 bumblebees, representing some 300 colonies, in a Wilsonville parking lot, which was called the largest mass bumblebee die-off on record.

More: Pesticide blamed for record bumblebee deaths

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