The rusty-patched bumble bee is native to the Midwest and East Coast, but has disappeared from 90 percent of its range in the past 20 years. And so, for the first time, a bee that lives in the continental US has been added to the endangered species list.
This move comes after the government added seven bees to the endangered species list back in October. All of those bees, however, were native to Hawaii.
Bee populations across the US have declined rapidly in recent years. Because farmers rely on bees to pollinate crops, bee loss is a threat to agriculture and food production. A recent study showed that we lost 44.1 percent of all honeybee colonies in the 2015, compared to losing 34 percent in 2014. (This was still better than the 45 percent loss from 2012 and 2013.)
Many people consider pesticides to be the main issue. Research suggests that pesticides are indeed harmful, but don’t hurt all bees equally. Scientists have also identified climate change as a problem.
When animals are officially placed on the endangered species list, they receive extra protections from the government. Under the Endangered Species Act, for example, we can’t seriously modify the habitat of listed species in a way that would directly hurt them. The US Fish and Wildlife Service told the Associated Press that it would “develop a recovery plan” for the rusty-patched bee. Tentatively, this seems to mean telling local orgs to avoid pesticides that harm bees and use native plants for landscaping.