Conservation Win: Rusty Patched Bumblebees Now Officially Listed as Endangered
The rusty patched bumblebee (Bombus affinis) became the first US wild bee to be listed in the government's endangered species list.
A plan for federal protections was previously proposed by the administration of former President Barack Obama. It was supposed to be implemented on Feb. 10; however, current president Donald Trump instructed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to put it on hold.
Trump reversed the course only a few days ago after petitions made by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and the lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
"The Trump administration reversed course and listed the rusty patched bumblebee as an endangered species just in the nick of time. Federal protections may be the only thing standing between the bumble bee and extinction," said Rebecca Riley, senior attorney with the NRDC.
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Associated Press reported that the rusty patched bumblebee, named for the rust-colored marks on its back, was once widely found in the upper Midwest and Northeastern U.S. Now, over 90 percent of its population has been wiped out primarily due to disease, pesticide exposure, habitat loss and climate change. At present, they are only found in small, scattered populations in 13 states.
"The listing helps mediate threats for this species and for all of those other animals out on the landscape that are suffering similar setbacks," Rich Hatfield, senior biologist at the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, told Reuters in a phone interview.
Under the Endangered Species Act, it is a federal crime to harm or kill bees. It is also now the responsibility of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to conduct measures to ensure the protection of the species population, including working with landowners, farmers and different industries to develop a recovery plan for the bees.
Rusty patched bumblebees in particular are considered habitat generalist because they can adapt to many types of environment. They are active all throughout the year, which means they need more flowers to survive, Forbes added.
In general, loss of bumble bees can have far ranging ecological impacts due to their role as pollinators of fruits and vegetables valuable to humans.