The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will list the rusty patched bumble bee as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act, making it the first bee in the continental U.S. to receive such protection. This is in response to a petition from the Xerces Society,
With this listing, the rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis) will be protected from activities that could cause it to go extinct. The Fish and Wildlife Service has the authority to develop and implement a recovery plan.
The rusty patched bumble bee is not only an important pollinator of prairie wildflowers, but also of cranberries, blueberries, apples, alfalfa, and numerous other crops. Once common from Minnesota to Maine, and south through the Appalachians, this species has been lost from 87% of its historic range since the late 1990s.
“Native pollinators in the U.S. provide essential pollination services to agriculture which are valued at more than $9 billion annually,” said Eric Lee-Mäder, Pollinator Program Co-Director at the Xerces Society. “We have already seen incredible leadership from the agricultural community in restoring and protecting hundreds of thousands of acres of habitat for the rusty patched bumble bee and other native pollinators. Providing a landscape that sustains all of our native bees will require continued investment by public agencies, as well as efforts from private residents in both urban and rural areas.”
The scientific consensus agrees that pathogens and pesticides are the two biggest threats to the existence of this species, compounded by loss of habitat. The rusty patched bumble bee is already listed as “endangered” under Canada’s Species at Risk Act and as “critically endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List.