Its official, the bumblebee has been added to the ever-growing list of endangered species along with the grizzly bear, the northern spotted owl, the gray wolf, and about 700 other animal species which are extinct. Once abundant in the grasslands and prairies of the East and Midwest, the rusty-patched bee has now been restricted to protections in the continental US as its population keeps dwindling at an alarming rate.
It has been estimated that as much as 95% only exists in isolated pockets in twelve states and the province of Ontario Canada.
"There are a few little spots where we know they are," James stranger, a research entomologist and bumble be ecologist told Forbes. "But only a really few spots."
Scientifically named Bombus affinis, this bee was named for the red patch in its abdomen. It took much longer than expected to put this bee into the list of endangered species list due to the tossing and turning in Trump's administration. The original listing date was set for 10 February 2018, but it was not until yesterday that it was listed.
Xerces Society director of endangered species Sarah Jepsen said:
“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.”
Human encroachment led to the subsequent loss of their natural habitat which played a significant role in the bee's declining population. The classification will foster the conservation of tall grasses and protection of grasslands that the bee's and other pollinators naturally thrive.
“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,” asserted Rich Hatfield, a Xerces Society, a senior conservation biologist. “This is a positive step towards the conservation of this species, and we now have to roll up our sleeves to begin the actual on-the-ground conservation that will help it move toward recovery.”
Although the move has been welcomed, there is a chance the designation of bumble bees as an endangered species might not sit well with several industries and corporations. The move might, therefore, face a lot of challenges.
“The implications of this hasty listing decision are difficult to overstate,” states a petition from American Petroleum Institute, National Association of Home Builders, National Cotton Council of America, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, and two entities to the Secretary of the Interior and Acting Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, requesting a year’s delay in the listing.
Without a hint of irony — considering pollinators are responsible for the propagation of around one-third of our food supply — the petition goes on to deem the listing of the rusty-patched bumble bee as “one of the most significant species listings in decades in terms of scope and impact on human activities.”
Darryl Fears from the Washington post estimates a series of lawsuits from the coalition of signatories seeking to de-list the bee.
Bumblebees are not to impart an estimated $3.5 Billion into the American economy annually. Despite that, destruction of natural resources through monoculture and generous use of pesticides and herbicides on genetically modified crops has acutely reduced the population of the very bee. It is common knowledge that over one-third of plants grown in the US depend on pollinators.
Therefore, opposition to the listing is recessive and counterproductive especially because the rusty-patched bumble bee is indeed an endangered pollinator.
According to a study handled by the Center for Biological Diversity published in February 2018, under the title 'pollinators in peril,' an astounding 347 species of bees native to North America and Hawai are rapidly spiraling towards extinction.
While saving bees might not be an essential task at hand for several individuals, approximately 128,000 people firmly believe that conservation efforts should start sooner rather than later and, therefore, they signed an agreement urging the listing of the rusty-patched bumble bee.