USFWS proposes bumblebee protection

By Emily Ronis

©Dan Mullen

On Sept. 22, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed a rule listing the rusty patched bumblebee (Bombus affinis) as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.This is the first time USFWS has considered federal protection for a bee in the continental United States.

The rusty patched bumblebee, named for a rust-colored patch on its abdomen, was once widespread throughout the Eastern and Midwestern U.S. Today, the pollinator is found in only 8 percent of its historic range, scattered across 12 states and Ontario, Canada. A combination of climate change, pesticides, habitat loss, and disease from commercial colonies threatens the bee’s survival.

In 2013, The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation petitioned the USFWS to list the species as endangered. In 2014, the Xerces Society and the Natural Resources Defense Council filed suit against USFWS for lack of action on the petition. Subsequent USFWS reviews found the petition presented substantial evidence to warrant federal protection and put forth the proposal to list the bee as endangered.

The bee is currently designated as “critically endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and as “endangered” under Canada’s Species at Risk Act.

The proposed listing is open for public comments until Nov. 21.

Read more about the rusty patched bumblebee at the Xerces Society.

Emily Ronis is a Policy Communication Intern at The Wildlife Society. Read more of Emily's articles.