First Bumble Bee in the U.S. Gets Endangered Species Protection

In a win for conservationists, the rusty patched bumble bee, a rare bee species facing extinction, will be protected under the Endangered Species Act.

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

Today, they can only be found in 13 states, and in Ontario, Canada. Their advocates have continued to warn that without urgent intervention, the few remaining populations would likely disappear entirely.

19788360874_o_B-affinis-on-Eutrochium-sp.-UWI-Arb_Rich-Hatfield-XSACredit: The Xerces Society/Rich Hatfield

They continue to face a host of threats ranging from habitat loss and degradation to climate change, disease, the spread of pathogens from bees who are raised and sold commercially, in addition to the widespread use of herbicides and pesticides.

In 2013, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to get the rusty patched bumble bee listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), but the agency didn’t respond. A year later, the Xerces Society joined forces with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and sued the Department of the Interior and the FWS in an effort to get this bee protected. Now, they’re celebrating a historic victory for the rusty patched bumble bee.

In September, the FWS listed a group of bees in Hawaii as endangered, but this marks the first time a bee species has been listed as endangered in the contiguous U.S. This also marks the first time a bumble bee in the U.S. has been listed as an endangered species.

“Today’s Endangered Species listing is the best―and probably last―hope for the recovery of the rusty patched bumble bee. Bumble bees are dying off, vanishing from our farms, gardens, and parks, where they were once found in great numbers,” said Rebecca Riley, Senior Attorney with the NRDC.

Jepsen-B-affinis-1Credit: The Xerces Society/Sarina Jepsen

It’s not just good news for these bees, it’s good news for a world that relies on pollinators who provide agricultural services estimated to be worth billions of dollars. The rusty patched bumble bee is an important pollinator of wildflowers, and a number of crops, including tomatoes, apples, blueberries, cranberries, peppers and alfalfa, among others.

Now they will be protected from activities that could cause them harm, and they will also benefit from the development and implementation of a recovery plan.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service has relied upon the best available science and we welcome this decision,” said Rich Hatfield, senior conservation biologist at the Xerces Society. “Addressing the threats that the rusty patched bumble bee faces will help not only this species, but countless other native pollinators that are so critical to the functioning of natural ecosystems and agriculture.”

The listing will officially go into effect on February 10, 2017. Meanwhile, the FWS is encouraging people to help these bees and other pollinators by planting a variety of native flowers that bloom from spring through fall, avoiding the use of pesticides and providing habitat for overwintering bees in yards and gardens.

For more on how to help rusty patched bumble bees and other pollinators, check out the Xerces Society.

Photo credit: Dan Mullen


Sarah H
Sarah Hill11 months ago

We need to stop spraying everything with pesticides!

Marie W
Marie W12 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

Lindsay K
Lindsay Kabout a year ago

Let's hope they get the protection needed for survival.

Marija Mohoric
Marija Mabout a year ago


Peggy B
Peggy Babout a year ago

Excellent until 'your' president doesn't want to hurt his cronies businesses. Or his stick dividends.

Dave C
David Cabout a year ago

and isn't it going to go away under our new so-called president????

Clare O
Clare O'Bearaabout a year ago

Thanks, help the bees

Carl R
Carl Rabout a year ago


Rosemary R

I agree withi Misss D

Melania P
Melania Padillaabout a year ago