For a long time environmentalists have warned of an impending ecological crisis, the extinction of bumblebees. Bees are much needed for their role in the pollination process, but numerous environmental factors have long put them in danger. So much so that for the first time the United States has placed Bumblebees on the endangered species list.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services has designated the rusty patched bumblebee. A first for the department and the first bee species from the lower 48 to receive such designation. The reasoning is simple, officials believe that this is the last and best chance to save a species which has long been in decline. The bees used to be found in up to 31 states, but as of late they have only been spotted in 13.
Populations have declined substantially, some estimates claim up to 88% with bees losing over 80% of their habitat as well. Across the United States, specifically the East Coast and Midwest, bumblebees used to exist in numbers greater than what can be found today. The main culprits of this decline are pesticides, disease, and habitat loss. All of which can be tied to human activity in someway or another.
The endangered status goes into effect towards the beginning of February and officials hope it will be a much needed step in limiting the human impact on these fragile populations. Bees have long ranged feeding habits and human development can have a massive impact on the feeding process. Bees might get lost, zones they once foraged are now fragmented, and overall their lives are increasingly difficult. As reflected in their decline.
A significant portion of the world’s food depends on pollinators like bees and bumblebees are by far the largest pollinator population in the United States. The move towards endangered species status will not reverse this crisis wholesale, but it is an important first step towards protecting an incredibly important piece of our ecology.