The rusty patched bumble bee is the first bee species to be protected by the Endangered Species Act in the continental United States. Seven bee species native to Hawaii are currently listed. Photo by Dan Mullen/USFWS
PORTLAND, Ore., Jan. 10 (UPI) -- The rusty patched bumble bee has been granted a spot on the endangered species list by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It is the first bumble bee species in the continental U.S. to be protected by the Endangered Species Act.
The rusty patched bumble bee is native to the East and Upper Midwest, but its numbers have declined precipitously over the last 20 years. The bee's historical range is 10 percent of what it was -- 90 percent gone in just two decades.
Prior to its decline, the bee was found in 28 states. Since 2000, the species has been seen in just 13.
USFWS suggests the species' decline is the result of changing land use -- more agricultural acres, specifically for monoculture farming -- as well as global warming, disease and pesticide use.
The decision by the federal government to protect the bee species wasn't exactly voluntary. As is often the case, the listing came in response to a petition filed by an advocacy group -- this time, the Xerces Society, a group devoted to invertebrate conservation.
"We are very pleased to see one of North America's most endangered species receive the protection it needs," Sarina Jepsen, director of endangered species at the Xerces Society, announced in a press release. "Now that the Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the rusty patched bumble bee as endangered, it stands a chance of surviving the many threats it faces -- from the use of neonicotinoid pesticides to diseases."
In the wake of the new listing, USFWS scientists will be tasked with developing a recovery plan for the bee. The species will also receive greater protection from development and land use decisions that could negatively impact its health.