Rich Hatfield, Senior Conservation Biologist, The Xerces Society
(503) 468-8405 | [email protected]
Katie Lamke, Conservation Biologist, The Xerces Society
(707) 477-2224 | [email protected]
PORTLAND, Ore.; Wednesday, September 29, 2021---Responding to a petition to list the American bumble bee (Bombus pensylvanicus) as an endangered species, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) issued a positive 90-day finding, indicating that the bumble bee may warrant federal protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The 90-day finding initiates a formal review by the FWS, including a Species Status Assessment (SSA). The Center for Biological Diversity and the Bombus Pollinator Association of Law Students of Albany Law School submitted the petition earlier this year.
The American bumble bee, as its name implies, was once broadly distributed across much of the U.S. and has one of the widest ranges of all North American bumble bees, from southern California and the Desert West (including parts of Mexico) through the Great Plains and out to the east coast, from Florida to Canada. However, many studies suggest that the American bumble bee is declining, especially in the northern part of its range. It is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
Throughout its range the American bumble bee faces many threats, all of which are likely contributing to its decline. The main threats identified for this species are climate change, pesticide use, habitat loss, the spread of pathogens and parasites and low genetic diversity.
“The decline of the American bumble bee is indicative of the significant threats that bumble bees face throughout the continent,” said Leif Richardson, conservation biologist for the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and lead of the California Bumble Bee Atlas. “It is encouraging to see the Service take this positive step toward conservation. If this species receives federal protection, an untold number of other pollinators stand to benefit, ultimately improving food security and ecosystem health for our nation.”
To help assess the status of the American bumble bee, and other imperiled bumble bees, the Xerces Society, and federal and state partners, have launched several state bumble bee atlas projects across the country. These efforts, largely conducted using the volunteer efforts of community scientists, have been successful in documenting populations of the American bumble bee, which will help the FWS conduct its assessment to determine if this bee should be added to the Endangered Species list. Despite the overall status of this species, there are hopes that recovery may be possible.
“From our bumble bee atlas projects, and other ongoing survey efforts, it appears that while the American bumble bee is declining in some parts of its range, it is still abundant in others,” said Rich Hatfield, senior Conservation Biologist and bumble bee program lead for the Xerces Society. “Since the goal of the Endangered Species Act is to prevent species from going extinct, having areas with healthy populations makes this species a prime candidate for protection; conservation efforts enacted now will have real and lasting effects on the survival of this species.”
If protection is warranted, the American bumble bee would join Franklin’s bumble bee (Bombus franklini) and the rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis) on the ESA list. Once added to the ESA list, opportunities for proactive and collaborative conservation efforts increase across much of the United States, and populations of this bumble bee would receive protection from direct harm.
“We’re excited about this announcement and the opportunities it will create,” said Katie Lamke, conservation biologist for the Xerces Society and the lead of the Nebraska and Missouri bumble bee atlas projects. “Many other imperiled bumble bee species stand to benefit from collaborative efforts to conserve the American bumble bee, including the southern plains (Bombus fraternus) and variable cuckoo (Bombus variabilis) bumble bees. We look forward to working with the Fish and Wildlife Service and other partners to help initiate conservation actions to make a difference for bumble bee conservation at a continental scale.”
Read the Federal Register announcement at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/09/29/2021-20963/endangered-and-threatened-wildlife-and-plants-90-day-findings-for-five-species
Profile of the American bumble bee on the IUCN Red List.
Information about bumble bee conservation on the Xerces website.
ABOUT THE XERCES SOCIETY FOR INVERTEBRATE CONSERVATION
The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation protects the natural world by conserving invertebrates and their habitat. Established in 1971, the Society is a trusted source for science-based information and advice and plays a leading role in protecting pollinators and many other invertebrates. Our team draws together experts from the fields of habitat restoration, entomology, plant ecology, education, community engagement, pesticides, farming and conservation biology with a single passion: Protecting the life that sustains us. To learn more, visit xerces.org or follow us @xercessociety on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.