Are bumblebees endangered in the USA?
In 2017, bumblebees were intended to be added to the Endangered Species List, in the months that followed administrative in delays in Washington DC happened in the form ‘freezes’ and ‘reviews’. Today, after having faced a 90+% decline in population, the iconic Rusty-Patched Bumblebee has only recently, and officially, made the list of endangered species and as such, can benefit from federal protections.
As effective pollinators, Bumblebees play a major role in stimulating an economic benefit of approximately 3B/yr in the USA. They help crops such as cranberries, blueberries, clover, and are one of the few pollinators of tomatoes.
Once found widely across 28 states in the East and Midwest the native bee species is now found only within isolated pockets of 12 states, with a heavy concentration remaining around the Great Lakes region. Habitat loss, diseases, pesticides, and climate change are lining up to challenge their resilience. With 1/3 of all crops in the United States requiring effective pollination, it’s not difficult to trend out where this is heading.
Yet, Sarah Jepsen of the Xerces Society finds room for optimism in the announcement, she adds, “We are thrilled to see one of North America’s most endangered species receive the protection it needs. 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.”
National Geographic takes a more measured outlook, stating
“The rusty-patched bumblebee (Bombus affinis), once a common sight, is “now balancing precariously on the brink of extinction,” according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service… Advocates for the rusty-patched bumblebee’s listing are abuzz with relief, but it may be the first skirmish in a grueling conflict over the fate of the Endangered Species Act under the Trump administration.”
Ending on a note optimism, Rich Hatfield, also of the Xerces Society, says:
“While this listing clearly supports the rusty patched bumble bee, the entire suite of pollinators that share its habitat, and which are so critical to natural ecosystems and agriculture, will also benefit.
Sources: Thinking Humanity, National Geographic, CBC
Image Credits: Clay Bolt/XERCES SOCIETY; Susan Day/UW-MADISON ARBORETUM