The Xerces Society applauds efforts to protect this imperiled species.
Rich Hatfield, Senior Conservation Biologist and Bumble Bee Lead, The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation
(503) 468-8405 | [email protected]
Sarina Jepsen, Endangered Species Program Director, The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, and Co-Chair of the IUCN Bumble Bee Specialist Group
(971) 244-3727 | [email protected]
PORTLAND, Ore.; August 12, 2019—Responding to a petition from the Xerces Society and the late Dr. Robbin Thorp, Professor Emeritus at University of California–Davis, tomorrow the United States Fish and Wildlife Service will propose to list Franklin’s bumble bee (Bombus franklini) as an endangered species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA), making it the first bee in the western U.S. to be officially recognized under the ESA.
Franklin’s bumble bee has the most restricted range of any bumble bee in the world; it is known only in southern Oregon and northern California between the Coast and Sierra-Cascade Ranges. Its entire distribution can be covered by an oval of about 190 miles north to south and 70 miles east to west. A precipitous decline began in 1999, and despite an extensive amount of searching, Franklin’s bumble bee has not been seen since 2006. The primary threats to this species include: 1) diseases from managed bees, 2) pesticides, and 3) a small population size.
The Xerces Society and Dr. Thorp formally petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect Franklin’s bumble bee in 2010.
Dr. Thorp, a leader in bumble bee conservation for decades, conducted surveys for Franklin’s bumble bee for more than two decades and was the first person to call attention to the decline in Franklin’s bumble bee and other formerly common bumble bees. He passed away in June 2019.
“We welcome this decision by the Fish and Wildlife Service to extend ESA protection to Franklin’s bumble bee,” said Sarina Jepsen, director of the Xerces Society’s endangered species conservation program. “This bee urgently needs all the help it can get.”
While many native pollinators have suffered declines related to loss of habitat and pesticides, the sudden decline of Franklin’s bumble bee and some of its closest relatives—including the rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis)—was likely initiated by a fungus that spread from managed bees. This hypothesis was first introduced by Dr. Thorp, and has been extensively tested by a team led by Dr. Sydney Cameron of the University of Illinois—who determined that commercial bumble bees were likely responsible for spreading and amplifying this pathogen across North America. For Franklin’s bumble bee, the effects of this fungus may have been compounded by insecticide use; loss of habitat; and, given its restricted historic range, a small population size.
“The decline in bumble bees like Franklin’s bumble bee should serve as an alarm that we are losing important pollinators,” said Xerces Society Executive Director Scott Hoffman Black. “We hope that the story of the Franklin’s bumble bee will compel us to prevent pollinators across the U.S. from sliding toward extinction.”
To better understand the status of all bumble bees in Oregon, Washington and Idaho, and to encourage people to continue searching for Franklin’s bumble bee, the Xerces Society and conservation partners have launched a new project utilizing the contributions of community scientists to help map bumble bees in the Pacific Northwest. This region is home to nearly thirty species of these charismatic and easily recognizable bees, and many of them face an uncertain future.
The Pacific Northwest Bumble Bee Atlas is spearheaded by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon State University, Oregon Department of Agriculture and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. The partners collaborate with community scientists to collect information on bumble bees across the Pacific Northwest.
“If we hope to find Franklin’s bumble bee again, we need all hands on deck,” said Rich Hatfield, senior conservation biologist at the Xerces Society. “With the help of community scientists, we can hopefully rediscover Franklin’s bumble bee, and better understand how to conserve all of our region’s most vulnerable bumble bees.”
ABOUT THE XERCES SOCIETY FOR INVERTEBRATE CONSERVATION
The Xerces Society is a nonprofit organization that 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. We collaborate with people and institutions at all levels and our work to protect pollinators encompasses all landscapes. Our team draws together experts from the fields of habitat restoration, entomology, botany and conservation biology with a single passion: protecting the life that sustains us. To learn more about our work, please visit www.xerces.org or follow us @xercessociety on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.