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Rusty Patched Bumble Bee to be Listed as Endangered Species

Sep 23, 2016 04:08 AM EDT

Federal officials are now considering to put a species of bumblebee that once widely found in the upper Midwest and the Northeastern United States under the protection of the Endangered Species Act.

According to the report from Fortune, the rusty-patched bumble bee, named for the conspicuous reddish blotch on its abdomen, is one of the several species of wild bee species that is on the decline over the past 20 years. The bee, known scientifically as Bombus affinis, is the first wild bee species in the continental U.S. proposed to be protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

If the proposal is finalized, the rusty-patched bumble bee will be put under federal protection to ensure the survival of the wild bee species.

"Endangered Species Act safeguards are now the only way the bumble bee would have a fighting chance for survival," said Sarina Jepsen, from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, in a report from Reuters.

As one of the 47 varieties of native bumble bees in the U.S. and Canada, the rusty-patched bumble bees are essential pollinators of wild flowers and about a third of crops in the continent. Experts estimated the annual economic value of bumble bees to farm at approximately $3.5 billion.

Unlike honey bees that are managed and carefully monitored by commercial beekeepers, wild bees are much more difficult to document. Since the late 1990s, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have recorded a 90 percent decline in the abundance and distribution of the rusty-patched bumble bees.

One of the major contributors in the decline of the rusty-patched bumble bee is the use of neonicotinoid pesticides in agricultural lands, gardens and parks. A recent study showed that this kind of pesticides could impair the queen's ability to lay eggs and maintain healthy bee colony.

Other factors attributed to the decline in the population of wild bee species include disease, other kinds of pesticides, climate change and habitat loss.

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