In 2016, for the first time, bees were added to the endangered species list in the United States. 7 species of Hawaiian yellow-faced bees, native to Hawaii, were added. Then in early 2017, the first bee to be placed on the endangered species list by the Fish and Wildlife Service in the continental US was the rusty patched bumblebee. At the time of this writing the new administration in the White House had put this one on hold.
The Rusty Patched Bumblebee
Rusty patched bumblebees are the first bee in the continental US to be placed on the endangered species list for federal protection. This species has undergone an incredibly rapid decline by almost 90% in the last two decades. These large, furry-looking bumble bees used to be a common sight in most of North America, but this is no longer the case. They are essential pollinators of tomatoes, peppers, blueberries and other important crops.
Bees on the Endangered Species List
According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, once a species is on the list, it is easier for them to create partnerships and gather resources towards the goal of saving the endangered population. In the case of bees, this is no simple task. The decline of this bee (and also that of many other bee species worldwide) is thought to be caused by a combination of factors: diseases, lack of habitat, climate change and, of course, harmful pesticides and insecticides especially neonicotinoids. Neonicotinoids are used in products for gardens, farm crops and pets.
Once a species is placed on the endangered species list, it is required that actions take place to work towards its protection. This is why it is an important step to be placed on this list and why those who work for the welfare of bees are eager for the rusty patched bee to be included. It is only a small step because of the global crisis among many bee species. However, it is an important one. One first step is that the Fish and Wildlife Service create a comprehensive plan aimed at the bee’s recovery. It would also be provided with ‘federally-protected habitats.’ This is much easier said than done, however, if we continue with our same deadly agricultural and chemical practices.
Further Reading on bees in your backyard: