Rusty patched bumble bee is an essential pollinator in the North America. The bee species has experienced a significant decline in recent years
Rusty patched bumble bee, once widely distributed and abundant across North America, is now on the verge of extinction. On Thursday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has made a formal recommendation to enlist it as an endangered species. If approved, it would be the first bee species in United States to receive protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
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Rusty patched bumble bee or scientifically known as Bombus affinis has recently experienced a serious decline in its population. Almost 90 of the bee species is now vanished from its historic range in just the past two decades and the trend does not appear to be reversing.
Marked with patches of rust color on its abdomen, rusty patched bumble bee is a primary pollinator. About one third of U.S. crops including blueberries, tomatoes and apples are dependent on the bee for their reproduction. The extinction of rusty patched bumble bee would be a major setback for U.S. economy.
Federal wildlife officials have involved people to get an estimated count of the bee species. As it is often impossible to obtain accurate counts of the animals or insects in a population, wildlife managers use indirect signs of their presence and relative abundance.
"This is a very difficult thing to track. It's not like honey bees that are out in boxes that people can go out and count so keeping track of them in the wild is very difficult.” Rich Hatfield, a conservation biologist with the Xerces Society that protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitat said in a statement.
Rusty patched bumble bee was historically ranged over 28 states from Minnesota to Maine and some parts of Canada but now it is restricted to small, scattered colonies in about a dozen of states. Experts attribute their decline to a number of factors including disease, climate change, overuse of pesticides and habitat loss.
"Endangered Species Act safeguards are now the only way the bumble bee would have a fighting chance for survival.” Sarina Jepsen from Xerces Society said.
Rusty patched bumble bee is one of the 4,000 bee species native to United States, which collectively contribute an estimated $3 billion to U.S. economy. So their conservation is necessary to stabilize both our food production and economy.
“I think one of the great things about pollinator conservation in general is that no matter where you live, you can do something about this," said Hatfield. "All these animals need our flowers from spring through fall and if we can help create or restore some habitat that's been lost, we can give bees a chance to recover.”
The public has a 60-day period to comment on the proposed listing for the rusty patched bumble bee before Fish and Wildlife Service will makes a final decision.