First Bumble Bee Finally Gets the Endangered Species Protection it Desperately Needs

bumble bee that is quickly disappearing will finally get the protection it needs under the Endangered Species Act.

The rusty patched bumble bee, which can be identified by a rust-colored patch on its abdomen, was once a commonly seen pollinator from the midwest to the east coast. Unfortunately, scientists believe that it has disappeared from 87 percent of its historic range since the 1990s and that its population has declined by a startling 95 percent.

They are protected as Endangered under the Species at Risk Act in Canada and are listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, but despite their dwindling numbers little was done to ensure their survival in the U.S.

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to get them listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2013 over concerns they would go extinct without intervention, but the agency didn’t respond. A year later, the Xerces Society, which was joined by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), sued the Department of the Interior and the FWS in an effort to get them protected.

They finally celebrated a victory last year when the FWS announced it was proposing protection for them. Unfortunately, once Trump was elected, the White House instructed agencies to freeze rules issued by the Obama administration, which put the brakes on protection for the bumblebees just a day before it was supposed to go into effect.

The NRDC took legal action again in February, but now the listing is finally official and these bumble bees are going to get the protection they need as an endangered species. The listing also marks the first time in history a bumble bee species has been listed, and the first time any bee has received federal protection in the continental U.S.

“The Trump administration reversed course and listed the rusty patched bumble bee 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.

Hopefully federal protection will help them survive in the face of threats they now face, which range from habitat loss and degradation to climate change, disease, the spread of pathogens from bees who are raised and sold commercially, and the widespread use of herbicides and pesticides.

Their disappearance wouldn’t just be a tragic loss for the ecosystem, it would also be really bad news for us. Not only do bumble bees provide an incredibly valuable service as pollinators of wildflowers, but also of many of the foods we love, including blueberries, tomatoes, apples and cranberries.

For more on how to help pollinators, check out the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. For more on how to become a citizen scientist to help bumble bees in North America, check out Bumble Bee Watch.

Photo credit: Dan Mullen

92 comments

Marie W
Marie W4 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Melania P
Melania P6 months ago

I hope it is not too late

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Daniela M
Daniela M8 months ago

I plant plants and flowers just for the bees but it is a minuscule thing; big bans on chemicals that are killing bees are needed.

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Daniela M
Daniela M8 months ago

Yes, desperately needs. They must ban that chemical that is killing the bees!

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Patricia H
Patricia Harris8 months ago

I have to agree with heather g, and natasha s. To insure the survival of our pollinators, we have to get rid of all those harmful chemicals that are still being used on a daily basis.

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Janis K
Janis K8 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Olivia H
Olivia H8 months ago

Thanks for the update.

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heather g
heather g8 months ago

Monsanto is still poisoning the earth....

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Jess B
Jess B8 months ago

Great news, thanks for sharing

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natasha s
Past Member 8 months ago

Frustrating it took this long but what about all other pollinators. I wanna see all pesticides off our store shelves.

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