The rusty patched bumblebee could become classified as an endangered species, due to its alarming decline.
This past week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed that these bees be classified as an endangered species and recommended them for federal protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
Once widely found in the upper midwest and Northeastern United States, the rusty patched bumblebee has declined by more than 90 percent since the late 1990s. It is just one of several wild bee species seen declining over the past two decades.
Extremely vital, prized pollinators, these bees are the first species to be formally proposed for federal protection.
There are 47 varieties of native bumblebees in the United States and Canada, with more than a quarter facing risk of extinction. Last year, seven different types of bees native to Hawaii were proposed to be classified as endangered species.
Bees in general are essential pollinations for wildflowers and one-third of U.S. crops.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service attributes bee decline to several factors, including disease, pesticides, climate change, and habitat loss.
Sarina Jepsen, of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, the group responsible for petitioning the government to save the bees, says that, “Endangered Species Act safeguards are now the only way the bumblebee would have a fighting chance for survival.”