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For immediate release
June 23, 2010

Scott Hoffman Black, Executive Director, The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, 503-449-3792,

Dr. Robbin Thorp, Professor Emeritus, University of California, Davis, 530-752-0482,


Franklin’s bumble bee is critically imperiled and needs immediate protection

Ashland, OR – The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and Dr. Robbin Thorp today filed a petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requesting Endangered Species Act protection for Franklin’s bumble bee.

Franklin’s bumble bee is in imminent danger of extinction. This mostly black bumble bee was readily found throughout its range in southern Oregon and northern California in the early 1990s. Twelve years of surveys conducted by Dr. Robbin Thorp clearly show that this species has declined steadily.  The decline has been so severe that only a single Franklin’s bumble bee was observed in 2006 and none since.

“Over the last 12 years I have watched the populations of this bumble bee decline precipitously,” said Dr. Robbin Thorp, Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Davis.  “My hope is this species can recover before it is too late.”

The cause of the catastrophic decline of Franklin’s bumble bee is hypothesized to be an escaped exotic disease that may have spread from commercial bumble bee colonies to wild bumble bee populations. Research in Dr. Sydney Cameron’s lab at the University of Illinois is underway to test this hypothesis. Other threats that may be harming Franklin’s bumble bee populations include habitat loss and degradation, climate change, pesticide use, and invasive plant species.

Recognizing the decline of Franklin’s bumble bee and numerous other North American bumble bees, The Xerces Society, Dr. Robbin Thorp, Defenders of Wildlife and the Natural Resources Defense Council recently petitioned the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to protect wild bumble bees from the threat of disease by regulating commercial bumble bees. Specifically, the petition asked the USDA-APHIS to create rules prohibiting the shipment of commercial bumble bees outside of their native ranges and to regulate the interstate transport of commercial bumble bees within their native ranges by requiring permits that show that bumble bees are certified as disease-free prior to movement.

“It is vital that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Act quickly to protect this bumble bee,” said Sarina Jepsen, Endangered Species Program Director at The Xerces Society. “We hope that an Endangered Species Act listing will encourage the USDA-APHIS to protect wild bumble bees from future threats posed by nonnative, commercial bumble bees.” 

Native bumble bee pollinators are important to the reproduction of many native flowering plants and food crops. In Britain and the Netherlands, researchers have noticed a decline in the abundance of certain plants where multiple bee species have also declined. For many crops, such as greenhouse tomatoes, blueberries and cranberries, bumble bees are better pollinators than honey bees, and some species are produced commercially for their use in pollination.

“The decline in Franklin’s bumble bee should serve as an alarm that we are starting to lose important pollinators,” said Scott Hoffman Black, Executive Director of The Xerces Society.  “We hope that Franklin’s bumble bee will remind us to prevent pollinators across the U.S. from sliding toward extinction.”

Read more about Franklin’s bumble bee >>
Read more about bumble bee conservation >>
Read the petition >>

The Xerces Society is an international, nonprofit organization that protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitat. For over three decades, the Society has been at the forefront of invertebrate conservation, harnessing the knowledge of scientists and the enthusiasm of citizens to implement conservation programs.

Franklin's bumble bee (Bombus franklini) on California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) by Peter Schroeder.


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