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Good News: Hawaii Bees Added to US Endangered List for the First Time

Oct 04, 2016 06:15 AM EDT

The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, has, for the first time in history, given endangered status to yellow-faced bees endemic in the Hawaiian islands.

According to the new rule published in the Federal Register, this new status will allow ample room for officials to implement protective measures for population recovery of the said bees. The Xerces Society told NPR that the change of status is monumental as these are"the first bees in the country to be protected under the Endangered Species Act."

The University of Hawai'i Master Gardener Program notes that the yellow-faced bees or Hylaeus is the only bee species who managed to reach and survive the isolated island. The Hawaiian bee thrives across the islands and, as naturalist R.C.L. Perkins describes it, “almost the most ubiquitous of any Hawaiian insects.”

The fast disappearance of yellow-faced bee species in Hawaii is attributed to three culprits: climate change, habitat loss and invasive species, National Geographic reports. From an abundant population during the early 1900s, now, there are only two known yellow-faced bee populations left.

Additional reasons for the Hawaiian bees' population decline also include urbanization and natural events such as hurricanes, tsunamis and drought.

"What we saw was really alarming—the bees were doing a lot worse than we thought," said Cynthia King, an entomologist with Hawaii's Division of Forestry and Wildlife. "We should protect the rarest of the rare."

This news has been welcomed with different wildlife conservation organizations. The Xerces Society told NPR that this new listing is "excellent" news but noted that more work is still needed for the revival of the species.

Meanwhile, King said, "A lot of people think of Hawaii as a lost cause because we have so many invasive species...we're really well positioned right now to make headway for the bee."

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