SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Conservationists and wildlife officials want to add a native North American bumblebee to the endangered species list.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the rusty patched bumblebee, also known as bombus affinis, is in danger of becoming extinct.
Much attention has been focused in California on the decline in honeybee colonies (Apis mellifera), but conservationists warn there are thousands of other bee species in North America under a far greater threat. According to a 2013 study published in Science, half of the Midwest’s native bee species have disappeared over the last 100 years.
According to the federal proposal, the rusty patched bumblebee once thrived in 28 states, the District of Columbia and Canada, but after a 90% decline, it is found in only 12 states and 1 Canadian province. The agency wants the bee listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
The bumblebees have distinctive black heads. The workers and males have a rusty, reddish patch in the middle of their backs. Only the female bees can sting.
As pollinators, these wild bumblebees are vital to flowering plants, crops and wildlife.
“The economic value of pollination services provided by native insects (mostly bees) is estimated at $3 billion per year in the United States,” according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Conservationists blame habitat loss, farming, disease, pesticides and climate change for the decline. They say people can help save the rusty patched bumblebee by growing gardens, eliminating non-native plants, fostering natural landscapes and minimizing use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers.