First Bumblebee Species Declared Endangered in U.S.

The federal government concludes the rusty patched bumblebee is nearing extinction.

By Kerry Grens | January 11, 2017


Update (March 23): On Tuesday (March 21), the US Fish and Wildlife Service officially listed the rusty patched bumblebee as endangered, following a delay by the Trump administration. Environmental groups praised the designation, while several business advocacy organizations asked the government to wait a year before listing the bee as endangered, the Associated Press (AP) reported. “Once the listing decision takes effect, virtually every industry operating within the species' range—from agriculture and crop production to residential and commercial development, from energy production and distribution to manufacturing, will be profoundly affected,” a petition stated, according to the AP.

Update (February 16): The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration in the US District Court in New York City on Tuesday (February 14) for delaying the order to list the rusty patched bumblebee as endangered. “The Trump administration broke the law by blocking the rusty patched bumblebee from the endangered species list,” said Rebecca Riley, senior attorney with the NRDC, in a statement. “Freezing protections for the rusty patched bumble bee without public notice and comment flies in the face of the democratic process.” 

Update (February 13): Regulations to protect the rusty patched bumblebee were supposed to go into effect last week. But, as the Associated Press reported on February 10, these conservation efforts will not begin as scheduled because of an executive order issued by President Donald Trump, restricting new regulations

The US Fish & Wildlife Service declared the rusty patched bumblebee (Bombus affinis) endangered today (January 10). It’s the first such listing for a bumblebee in the U.S. and the first for any bee species in the continental U.S.

“Listing the bee as endangered will help us mobilize partners and focus resources on finding ways right now to stop the decline,” Wildlife Service Midwest Regional Director Tom Melius told CNN.

The now-endangered pollinator lives in the upper Midwest and Northeast. Habitat loss, disease, pesticides, and climate change have contributed to population declines, according to Fish & Wildlife. “The rusty patched bumble bee has experienced a swift and dramatic decline since the late 1990s,” according to a press release. “Abundance of the rusty patched bumble bee has plummeted by 87 percent, leaving small, scattered populations in 13 states and one province.”

Several other bee species that reside in Hawaii are already on the endangered species list.

“Obviously, it’s sad that anything has to get on the endangered list, but this really provides a great opportunity,” Dennis vanEngelsdorp of the University of Maryland told The New York Times. “When you’re talking about saving the bumblebees, what you’re really talking about is saving the community.”

Correction (February 17): We incorrectly called the NRDC the National Resources Defense Council. Thank you to a reader for pointing out the mistake. The Scientist regrets the error.

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Avatar of: jdevola


Posts: 12

February 13, 2017

Another fumble by the new administration, no accounting for (un)intended consequences of just not consulting with those who do know.

Avatar of: dmarciani


Posts: 68

February 16, 2017

Idiocy in the scientific community? While the situation with this bee is alarming, to attack the government for putting a temporary stop on the endless myriad of recent new regulations that affects many people beyond the bee, falls under idiocy. I doubt it very much that considering the world and the US political situation, that there was a deliberate effort to hurt the bee. Perhaps instead of rushing to file lawsuits, which confirms that idiocy is becoming the norm, those committed to protecting the bee should mount a quick and effective public campaign educating the nation about the situation. Indeed, I suspect that these lawsuits are largely motivated by political rather than conservation concerns. For general information, I am not a cheerleader of the administration, but I am not affected by idiocy either.

Avatar of: James V. Kohl

James V. Kohl

Posts: 526

February 16, 2017

Nutrient-dependent/pheromone-controlled adaptive evolution: a model

...the honeybee has emerged as a model organism for understanding the epigenetic link from food odors and pheromones to neural networks of the mammalian brain, which ultimately determine human behavior (Kohl, 2012). That fact can now be discussed in the context of the mammalian model of ecological epigenetics and systems biology that is represented here.

Suing Trump for the problem known to all serious scientists is typical of what liberals and atheists think they should do. It's akin to not thinking at all, which is like what they've always done.


Avatar of: John Saba

John Saba

Posts: 23

February 17, 2017

Good for the Natural Resources Defense Council!

People need to stand up to the destructive policies of the Trump administration.

What's idiotic is not defending ourselves and the planet, but passing "laws" prohibiting new "laws."

March for Science!

Editor: Please note the actual name of the organization.

Avatar of: True Scientist

True Scientist

Posts: 59

February 17, 2017

Are we looking for a solution for environmental concern or just another opportunity for attempt to smear dirt on present administration? "Let's march! Let's protect ourselves and the whole planet (why not the Universe?) from destructive policy!" Poor bumblebee suffering from "climate change"... There are many effective and constructive ways to protect endagered species without involving legal procedures or marchning in the streets. Too many laws do not make life easier or better.


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